The Advertising Apprentice

September 15, 2010

A Refreshingly Real Approach to Advertising

Filed under: Advertising — adamlauzon @ 2:20 PM

Has it really been almost three months since my last post? That has to change! Well nothing says welcome back like an entry on a topic that makes men cringe almost as much as this:

The next worst thing for most men to seeing someone get hit in that part of the body is, in my opinion, when their spouse, in a slightly irritated tone, says, “Honey can you go buy me some tampons?”

While this entry won’t focus on the act of physically going out and buying tampons, it will focus on an ad campaign, U by Kotex, that hopes that when women, and men, are out buying these products that you consider Kotex. The reason for focusing on Kotex is the unique way they’ve set themselves apart from the competition in this new campaign.

For your viewing pleasure I’ve selected three of my favourites of the campaign. If you’re interested in seeing more from this campaign, the links are posted at the end of the entry.

The main reason I like this campaign so much is because they are a refreshing change to the spots we are accustomed to seeing from this product-class, like this one:

The ads in the Kotex campaign go outside of the norm for commercials for feminine-hygiene products. This “real” approach is as if they’re having a real conversation with their consumers, void of the clichés normally seen.

The first spot does a really good job at conveying this real, yet quite honestly cynical message. The line “The ads on TV are really helpful because they use that blue liquid and I’m like oh that’s supposed to happen.” That is then followed by the text on the screen, “Why are tampon ads so ridiculous?” The second spot is consistent in its criticism of commonly seen tampon ads, especially with the question at the end, “Why are tampon ads so obnoxious?” Finally the third ad is great because it shows how squeamish and put-off guys get when asked to buy tampons for a woman. I really love the hidden-camera element because it’s able to fairly accurately show men’s discomfort level with buying tampons. Notice how one guy even says, “Can I just buy you toilet-paper?” This ad is consistent with the previous two ads in how it breaks the mould. It is also consistent with the question text at the end of the spot, “Why are 40% of people uncomfortable buying tampons?”

Do these commercials work? (For the purposes of this discussion I’m interested in the ability to quickly recall the brand, some time after seeing the spot.) Last night I was telling my 16-year-old brother about the topic for this week’s entry, telling him I was writing an entry on a tampon ad campaign that seems to have taken an unconventional, yet welcome, new approach. He replied instantly, “Oh you mean those Kotex ads?” Granted he’s not a consumer of this product but the fact that the ads are memorable enough for him to retain and easily recall the brand-name is a positive sign. Because when his girlfriend sends him to the store to pick her up some tampons, being the confused/lost man that he will be, chances are pretty high that he will quickly gravitate towards the brand he can quickly recall, Kotex!

My next entry, which I promise won’t be published in three months, will focus on two PBS Frontline documentaries, The Merchants of Cool and The Persuaders.

Here are other Kotex ads from the U by Kotex campaign:

Trip Along the Shelf

Barely There

Easy to be Different

Break the Cycle

Rorschach Test – Social Experiment

Job Interview – Social Experiment

Help Me Choose – Social Experiment

To read more insight on this new approach by Kotex, Andrew Adam Newman of the New York Times wrote an article on the U by Kotex campaign, which you can see here.



  1. Adam…sometimes I think that you and I share a brain! I was just using these commercials as an example in class on Tuesday. We were discussing the importance of really understanding your audience and talking to them, not AT them. I can only think that these ad series were written by women FOR women because of the candor they contain. They truly reflect real conversations that real women would have if they were comfortable enough with each other. Obviously, the company feels comfortable with their consumer groups, and vice versa. Keep up the great work, Adam. I’ll be reading!

    Comment by Kim Donaldson — September 16, 2010 @ 6:10 PM | Reply

  2. Thanks very much Kim!

    Another element in play that I didn’t discuss in my entry, that you allude to above, is that this campaign is really great because it shows that Kotex clearly did their market research. They’ve identified their target-audience and found the best way to connect to them; by treating them as the people they are: young women that don’t want to see another cliché-laden tampon commercial showing them the benefits of the given brand. And as you said by talking TO, and not AT, their target market, Kotex is really connecting with the audience.

    Also, this fresh approach in itself is their U.S.P. (unique selling preposition) and by going against the grain they’ve done a really good job at really standing out in a crowded marketplace.

    Comment by adamlauzon — September 18, 2010 @ 8:27 PM | Reply

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