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Product: Health and Beauty
Advertiser: Procter & Gamble
ASAI Code 7th Edition: 2.4(c), 3.3, 3.16, 3.17, 3.18, 3.20, 3.21, 3.22
The television advertisement, set in a studio type setting for a chat show, featured a female host and a young girl sitting in a chair waiting to be interviewed. A background screen featured a teacup at the bottom with on-screen text which stated:
“Tampons & Tea with COMFORT WRIGHT FROM TAMPAX”
A small circular table appeared to the right of the screen. The table contained a cup turned upside down with a saucer on top. The saucer contained a box of Tampax Tampons Pearl Compak.
The advertisement opened with the word “TAMPAX” on-screen. The chat show host appeared alongside a young girl seated in her chair. The host engaged with her audience and spoke as follows:
“Welcome back. We have a great show for you today.”
The host sat down and continued to speak:
“So, tell me, how many of you ever feel your tampon?” The young girl raised her hand and nodded her head to demonstrate that she had.
The host continued:
“You shouldn't, it might mean your tampon is not in far enough.” At this point the following on-screen text appeared:
“*Always follow pack instructions for correct use”.
The host continued:
“You gotta get ‘em up there girls”.
The host resumed accompanied by an on-screen demonstration of how to insert a tampon correctly. The demonstration featured a woman making a circle with her thumb and index finger on one hand as she held the tampon applicator in the other hand. She inserted the tampon applicator from one hand into the circle just created and released the tampon from its holder. While this demonstration was on-going the host spoke as follows:
“Exactly. Our special Tampax Pearl Compak grip design for your guide to comfort. Just pull it, lock it and put it in. Not just the tip, up to the grip”. The majority of this message also appeared as on-screen text with an additional footnote which stated:
“*When experiencing persistent discomfort not related to incorrect insertion of your tampon, consult your doctor”.
The host concluded the presentation with the following message:
“So, get ‘em up there girls with Tampax. Do it for comfort”.
In the end frame, the host winked at the camera, the young girl smiled and a pack of Tampax Pearl Compak appeared on screen.
84 complaints were received in relation to the advertising.
Issue 1 – General Offence
Some complainants considered it to be offensive and inappropriate to talk about such a sensitive topic in the manner portrayed and that the content had been over-descriptive, inappropriately expressed and with excessive detail.
Some of the words used by the complainants to describe their feelings in relation to the language used and in particular in relation to the phrases “you gotta get ‘em up there, girls” and “not just the tip, up to the grip” were as follows:
offensive, crude, vulgar, disgusting, unnecessary, embarrassing, distasteful, coarse, grotesque, inappropriate and over-descriptive.
Two complainants said that they had no issue with the message contained within the advertisement. One of them considered that the educational content may be beneficial to some viewers. Both, however, considered that the message could have been delivered in a discreet manner that was less crass.
Issue 2 – Demeaning to Women
Some complainants considered the advertising to be demeaning to women. They said that it belittled them and implied that they may be ignorant when it came to the matter of using tampons. Some said that if women had problems using such products, all they had to do was read the instructions on the box.
Some said that the advertisement was embarrassing to watch, degrading of females and particularly so in front of others. One person asked if it was necessary to ask the question “do you ever feel your tampon?” they queried who may want to hear such a question and considered it to be unnecessary and needlessly explicit.
One complainant asked who ever did tea and tampons? They said the content was belittling to women in both the language and gestures used.
Some complainants considered it to be an unfair playing field when it came to women’s private matters and said that men’s private matters would not be treated in such a fashion.
Issue 3 – Sexual Innuendo
Some complainants considered the phrase “…get ‘em up there, girls” to have sexual connotations. They considered the advertisement to be sexualising the wearing of a tampon and that the language used was suggestive, over-descriptive and provocative.
One complainant considered that the language and imagery used may give the false impression to young males that if young girls were using tampons that the likelihood was that they were having sex. They considered the wording, “not just the tip, up to the grip” in particular to have sexual meanings.
Issue 4 – Suitability for Children
Some complainants considered the advertising to be unsuitable for daytime television while children may be watching and said it should not have aired before 9pm. Some said the advertising had led to questions from their children who had unnecessarily been exposed to the inappropriate content at a young age.
Some said they considered that the advertisement was perhaps being aimed at young teenagers who may be new users of the product and considered the content had the potential to cause embarrassment to them if watching with their father, brother or male friends.
One person said that their teenage family members had found the advertisement disgusting, while another person said their two teenage girls were mortified while watching it.
The advertisers said that when they produced this particular advertisement they had carried out extensive research with consumers across several European countries to ascertain what were the barriers to use, particularly in the age groups between 18 and 24 as they started to use tampons more frequently. It became apparent to them that many consumers regularly felt discomfort all or some of the time when they were using a tampon, primarily because they were unsure how to insert the tampon.
The need for education became apparent, and after conducting an online quantitative test amongst over 5,000 women in different countries (not including Ireland), the advertisers’ findings demonstrated that:
o ~30-40% of the Tampons users were not inserting the applicator properly
o ~30-55% of Occasional users were not extending the applicator fully
o ~60-80% of Occasional users experienced discomfort at least occasionally
o ~30-50% experience discomfort every time or most of the time
o ~60-70% said that discomfort comes from insertion/from the first moment they started wearing, which confirmed the hypothesis that the wrong insertion was triggering the discomfort.
They said that the one country which had taken part in the survey where the above findings were not so apparent was Spain, where for a number of years they have been running advertising which provided guidance to consumers as to the appropriate manner to insert a tampon. On the basis of their survey findings, the advertisers decided to follow through with further educational programmes.
They said that although they had acknowledged internally that the copy idea might provoke a small number of complaints, they believed that it was in the best interests of their consumers to help them understand how to make the best use of Tampax tampons and to explain how the product should be used via the “applicator”.
Issues 1 – General Offence
They said at Tampax, they believed in normalising the conversation around periods through awareness, information and education. The light-hearted advert had centred around a very common usage question and the intent was to educate people on how to use the product.
The advertisers said that while they appreciated that the advertisement had led to a higher number of complaints than they would have expected, they believed that the copy delivered an important educational message to consumers so that they were advised how best to use a tampon in a safe and secure manner. They said the advertisement had not featured explicit or graphic content, and the demonstration on how to use the product correctly was presented in a factual manner, as such they did not believe the advert was offensive and that it should be permitted to remain on air.
Issue 2 – Demeaning to Women
The advertisers did not provide a specific response to this issue.
Issue 3 – Sexual Innuendo
The advertisers said they had noted the comments made in a number of the complaints and offered assurance that the advert was not intended to have sexual connotations or to offend in any way.
Issue 4 – Suitability for Children
With regard to programming and their media plan, the advertisers said that they were aware that anyone under 18 was classed as a child in Ireland for such purposes. If 50% of an audience was anticipated to be children then restrictions were placed on the advertising of feminine care products, i.e. they were not permitted.
They said in addition, some stations chose to classify other shows like the Big Big Family Movie on RTE1 (Saturday early peak), regardless of what the film was, as child friendly and adverts for feminine care products were not permitted.
For UK stations that transmit into Ireland (e.g. SKY, C4 etc) they said the regulations were stricter. If the viewing audience was 20% or more of minors (aged 16 or under), there were restrictions on the advertising of feminine care products.
The advertisers said that the target audience for the campaign in question was women aged between 16 and 44 and they had avoided any “kids TV” airtime. They said it would be of no benefit to them to place advertising around programmes which did not consist of their target audience.
Complaints Upheld in Part.
The Complaints Committee considered the detail of the complaints and the advertisers’ response. The Committee considered the issues raised on an individual basis.
Issue 1 - General Offence - Upheld
The Committee noted the Code required that advertising should not cause grave or widespread offence. The Committee noted that the advertisement, although light-hearted in nature, provided factual information in a manner that was neither explicit nor graphic. They did not consider that the advertisement had caused grave offence. They noted, however, the level of complaint that had been received and the concerns expressed by complainants about the advertising and considered that it had caused widespread offence. In the circumstances, they considered that the advertisement had breached Section 3.16 of the Code.
Issue 2 – Demeaning to Women – Not Upheld
The Committee noted that the advertisers had not specifically addressed this aspect of the complaint.
The Committee noted that several complainants had objected on the grounds that the advertisement’s message was that they were unable to use the product or they could not read product instructions. They also noted the information provided by the advertisers about the usage problems that had been experienced by a number of women.
The Committee did not consider that the advertisement was saying that per se women were unable to follow instructions or use products properly. Rather that, they considered, by the host posing the question, “So tell me, how many of you ever feel your tampon?” the advertisement was clearly targeting those who had experienced difficulties in using the product
The Committee did not consider that suggesting that some consumers had product usage challenges resulted in advertising content being demeaning, belittling or degrading to women generally.
In the circumstances the Committee did not consider that Code had been breached based on the grounds raised in Issue 2.
Issue 3 – Sexual Innuendo – Not Upheld
The Committee noted that complainants considered that the advertisement had sexual connotations and meanings, and that it was sexualising the use of the product. The Committee noted that the language used in the advertisement, such as “not just the tip, up to the grip” and “You gotta get ‘em up there girls” had been used solely in conjunction with how to use the product correctly. They also noted that the accompanying demonstration was neither explicit nor graphic in content. They did not consider that the advertisement was sexually explicit nor that it had contained sexual innuendo and, in the circumstances, did not consider that the Code had been breached based on the grounds raised in Issue 3.
Issue 4 – Suitability for Children – Not Upheld
The Complaints Committee noted the complaints about the suitability of the topic for young children. The Committee noted the actions that had been taken to prevent the advertising appearing in Children’s programming. Whilst noting the complaints about the potential for embarrassment by older children, i.e. teenagers, the Committee considered that the advertisement, although presented in a light-hearted manner, was factual and did not consider that the content was inappropriate. In the circumstances, they did not consider that the Code had been breached based on the grounds in Issue 4.
The advertising should not run in the same format again.