Greatest Tampon Ad Ever. Here’s Why

An Internet pitch starring a compelling spokes-kid creates a sensation

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Adolescence has always been a bipolar time. Girls and boys with the minds of children and the rapidly developing bodies of adults must try to reconcile those opposing pulls—with all the psychic turbulence that characteristically results. In recent years, the struggle has  been especially hard for girls, for whom the age at which puberty begins has gone into free fall. As I reported in 2011, up to 40% of African-American girls, 30% of Latinas and 20% of Caucasian girls are now showing some breast development—typically the first indicator of puberty—by age eight. In the U.S., puberty in girls is not even technically considered  premature unless it begins before the eighth birthday.

Kudos then to HelloFlo, for launching a service and, much more important, a buzzworthy Internet ad that makes the hardest part of early puberty—the first period—not merely OK and unthreatening, but actually cool. HelloFlo’s product is straightforward enough—a monthly, mail-order shipment of tampons and panty liners to make sure girls who are not yet in the habit of tracking their cycles don’t get caught out. A few pieces of candy are included in the box because, well, who doesn’t like candy?

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Much more important is the spokeskid who pitches the product. The 1 min and 47 sec. ad is set at a summer camp and features a girl who looks no older than 10 or 11, a self-described “big random loser” who does not yet fit in. “And then,” she beams, “things changed. I got my period.” She is the first in her bunk to be awarded what she delightedly calls “the red badge of courage,” and in a blink, her status soars. She becomes a combination teacher, drill seargent, and life coach—the “camp gyno,” as she puts it. “For these campers, I was their Joan of Arc,” she boasts, as she hands one girl a tampon and a hand mirror. “It’s like, I’m Joan and their vadge is the arc.” Ultimately, she concedes, “The power got to my head a little bit. Popularity can do that.” Finally, it all comes crashing down when the other girls discover HelloFlo and don’t need her help anymore.

OK, so there are lots of ways to argue with the ad—though none of them concern the star, who has become a sensation. Plenty of teen and preteen girls feel like “big random losers” and may be disappointed to find that that existential angst does not go away at the moment of first menses. In an online discussion on theAtlantic.com, under the headline, “There Has to Be a Better Way to Sell Tampons,” two editors also argue that the inclusion of candy in the shipments makes a period out to be something harder than it is, “As though women somehow just can’t handle getting their period without a side of chocolate,” writes one. She adds that the breezy language on the company’s website (using the term “when you flo” as opposed to “when you get your period”) is “infantilizing.”

(MORE: Early Puberty May heighten Heart Risks For Women)

All of that would be true enough for a woman—even an older teen—who has been around the track a few times, who has become familiar with the  menstrual routine and has reached the developmental point at which body changes and the larger life changes they imply aren’t the seismically thrilling and seismically scary things they can be to a kid. But that’s not the target audience of this ad. “Infantilizing” is surely too strong a word when you’re dealing with people who in some ways are still infants—at least compared to the grownups they’re rapidly becoming. Simple biology will always make adolescence a more difficult transition for girls than it is for boys—and the medical trend lines means that they will be facing it when they’re younger and younger. It’s hard to argue with something that tries to make the passage a little easier.

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49 comments
silverose
silverose

"It's like Santa...for vaginas"

Really...

j23pilot
j23pilot

This is troubling. Not the ad but the decline in age. I would like to see a Global Study on Western vs other nations. Of course we know the former have our children exposed to pesticides, antibiotics, GM foods and other pollutants. Considering that we are living longer and have slowed our aging, the rapid advancement of adolescence is not a good thing. This is not my field of study but the first area to study would be what we consume most of - water, milk etc and the levels of exogenous hormones in this substances that we are now consuming.

leon1376
leon1376

I have a very uncomfortable feeling about this and I don't quite know why. Maybe it's part of the continuing trend to turn little children into miniature consenting adults. Dunno. I'm sure there's no link between this sort of thing and the seemingly endless parade of child porn addicts. Correct? 

Jag0419
Jag0419

I don't get the big deal.  Don't dismiss it.  But by romanticising it you make itless and more important than it need be. A girl has her period.  That's both great and no big deal. I think young women would be healthier if we made their menses less of an issue and their brains, ability and potential more of an issue.  Honestly, an entire industry feeds on this stuff. 


DancingHare
DancingHare

I like the ad, but I wish it mentioned more options like cloth pads - which are more comfortable and ecologically friendly than tampons. Safer for teens, too (no TSS).

katierose0324
katierose0324

Can I get through my period without chocolate? Yeah...I guess. But why suffer? If that makes me a silly, infantile woman than I guess I can live with that.

spookiewriter
spookiewriter

She adds that the breezy language on the company’s website (using the term “when you flo” as opposed to “when you get your period”) is “infantilizing.”


Yeah, I've NEVER heard women use any "breezy language" like, my monthly friend, "I need to get some guest houses", my Aunt Flo, or any other word than "period". I don't understand why some people think injecting humor into something cheapens it.

chiefy4u
chiefy4u

I got my period when I was 9, & it was horrible!  My mother had to go with me to the bathroom for the first couple of days.  My daughter was 10, but I had already explained to her what she could expect, @ a level that she understood.  Unfortunately, many mothers today still do not feel comfortable talking about these things with their young daughters, and it is a painful thing to go through, so even though I haven't watched the commercial, I think it's a step in the right direction.  Kids are exposed to such garbage these days, so watching an advert about something that all girls cannot avoid as they grow up, is a good thing.

FrankBlank
FrankBlank

LOL.  A funny morality tale, in which Random Loser becomes Soup Nazi (albeit more generous)... only to be overthrown by the spread of knowledge. 

mrbomb13
mrbomb13

How on Earth can you dimwits at TIME Magazine think this commercial in any way, shape, or form represents anything great??

That little kid compares herself to Saint Joan of Arc, apparently for informing other little girls about tampons.  In any other era, such a comparison would have drawn ire and criticism from wide segments of society - especially since Joan of Arc was revered for following her God-driven convictions, and martyring for the Christian faith.  This kid is delusional if she thinks her little commercial even begins to approach the Saint's.

Second, what on Earth is so great about having a kid talk about the 'vag,' 'gyno-camp,' etc.??  When I was a kid (in the 1990s), such words were unknown to us.  We watched Disney, Power Rangers, and played N64/Game Boy.  I promise that the 'vag' did not enter into our streams of thought.  It's disgusting that passes as acceptable in society today.

Lastly, I'm shocked that TIME Magazine - already suffering for readers and revenues - would sink to such bottom-feeder mentality by publishing this story.  There is no way something like this would have been published even 5 years ago, due to the notion of journalistic standards.  With drivel like this, it makes one wonder if such standards even exist anymore.

karyncooks
karyncooks

The Atlantic writer who thinks "Flo" is infantalizing has apparently never participated in a real conversation, with real tweens and teens, about their periods.  Girls and little women have referred to the periods as "Flo" for -oh-about a gazillion years. That's the rough number.  And frankly, my peers and I were always in awe of the girls who got their periods first. It really was a giant red badge of courage, and to such an extent that some girls lied about getting theirs! This was in the 70's!  So this conversation isn't new but the way it's been introduced into American marketing (FINALLY!) is what's new. Now can we please stop being so prudish and squeamish about other bodily functions and urges? Pretty please?

dgb
dgb

YESSSS! If this was around when I was 12 it would have saved me many tears. Getting your period is rough for some of us; I'm glad their targeting the noobs. They need all the help they can get.

AbigailQuevedoOrtega
AbigailQuevedoOrtega

this ad is awesome because makes girls look more comfortable with the fact of becoming a women


punkakes13
punkakes13

thinkin well, i think this add is kinda insane.. in a bad way

VasuMurti
VasuMurti

Someone commented on USENET in 1987 on a debate about abortion that it's odd that some people find contraceptive ads on television offensive... when ads for tampons, laxatives, etc. occur on a regular basis.

oceanformeme
oceanformeme

I did not like this ad, I have 3 grown daughters and they now have daughters of their own.  What is with the tough girl image, and thank you very much I still think it is a private, personal issue.  I think the possibility of a condom ad is very inapproiate.  They grown up fast enough and I and my husband informed our children when we felt the time was right.  This girl looks like she is ready for a fight.   boo to your ad....

buffalo.barnes102
buffalo.barnes102

Hilarious! I can hardly wait for the one for teen-age boys on "Putting on a Condom". Hopefully, it will be as straightforward and humorous as this one. 

DankevEnv
DankevEnv

@j23pilot blah blah blah. you say GMO, but I don't think you know what that means. It means disease and drought resistant crops and increased yields; It means that you don't get to starve to death like those in Africa and Asia. Read a book; learn something about science then post an intelligent comment.  

VasuMurti
VasuMurti

@chiefy4u

In his Pulitzer Prize nominated Diet for a New America (1987), vegan author John Robbins writes about the dangers of pesticides in a chapter entitled America the Poisoned. He quotes Dr. Carmen Saenz in Puerto Rico:

"...a four-and-a-half-year-old girl with delicate coffee-colored skin, doelike brown eyes and almost fully developed breasts... She had an ovarian cyst...

"A one-year-old-girl... lies on the examining table with a ruler stretched across her chest to measure the diameter of her enlarged breasts...

"A five-year-old-girl... her breasts are as large and well-developed as a fourteen-year-old's... her mons veneris is covered with a scraggly tangle of pubic hair.

"This one had a well-developed uterus and... some vaginal bleeding..."

Dr. Saenz wrote in the Journal of the Puerto Rican Medical Association (February 1982):

"It was clearly observed in 97 percent of the cases that the appearance of abnormal breast tissue was... related to local whole milk in the infant group. At a later age (the culprit was)... consumption of local whole milk, poultry and beef."

When Dr. Saenz was asked how she could be sure the children were contaminated with hormones from meat and milk rather than from other source, she replied:

"When we take our patients off meat and fresh milk, their symptoms usually regress."

John Robbins writes: "Regulations regarding hormone use in livestock arfe not enforced as well in Puerto Rico as they are in the rest of the United States, and this partially explains the epidemic of prenatal sexual development... doctors in the U.S. are seeing earlier and earlier puberties in both boys and girls... Other countries are also experiencing the same trend.  An English medical journal reported that hormone traces in the meat of chemically fattened livestock are causing British schoolgirls to mature sexually at least three years earlier than in the past."

In response to the abortion crisis, Dr. Richard Schwartz (author, Judaism and Vegetarianism) advocates a vegan diet to prevent young girls from maturing so quickly. He notes that in Asian countries where animal products are rarely consumed, the onset of puberty in girls occurs later in life, like around age sixteen or seventeen. He suggests this would prevent young girls from becoming pregnant at an early age, when they are not prepared to have a baby, etc.

I commented to Richard that his argument reminded me of Judy Blume's book from the early '70s, Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret, which describes (among other things) tween girls awaiting their first menstruation. 

I noted as well that Richard was sidestepping the debate in abortion over the possible human rights of the unborn (the way some Christians ignore the rights of animals when it comes to vegetarianism and focus only on the health aspects)!










XiraArien1
XiraArien1

@mrbomb13 

Unless you have some super-secret plan to remove all the GMO and hormones and endocrine disruptors from our food supply, I suggest you get with the program of teaching very young girls about sexuality in cartoon-friendly ways.

http://llltexas.com <- my blog

j23pilot
j23pilot

@mrbomb13  The story is primarily about the rise in early onset puberty - not the marketing decisions of the company. The ad is relevant because it is a novel and perhaps provocative way of presenting a new product to an emerging market of consumers and an attempt to provide a service and product to a group that may very well need it.

leon1376
leon1376

@mrbomb13 This is why I think an article like this, with the picture of the little girl, and her dialogue, would spark the interest of a child predator. The media is definitely going down the wrong path on this one. And then we wonder why there are so many people out there with huge kiddie porn collections. I'm sure all the pedophiles reading this will strongly disagree but so be it. There are some really sick people out there, folks. Little girls are being violated and murdered every day. 

lucereta
lucereta

@mrbomb13 I was a nine-year-old girl in the '70's, and I promise you that the "vag" and when we might get our periods (to say nothing of what periods where and where babies came from and what the various parts of of our anatomy were) very much entered our thoughts.  I also promise, as someone who was in Catholic school at the time, that we made plenty of jokes about the saints.

CoolLady
CoolLady

@mrbomb13 (I would have thought this ad was OK if it were for pads) it's not the ad I have a problem with, it is the product that makes it off putting. How can tampons be appropriate for 13 year old girls? 

CoolLady
CoolLady

@mrbomb13 I totally agree. I don't think tampons are even appropriate for girls so young. 

JenniferBonin
JenniferBonin

@mrbomb13 So you'd rather girls about to enter puberty not know what their "vag" is, or think that it's something 100% scary and so foreign that only nurses and sex ed teachers can talk about it???

Funny.  I once had a discussion with my gramma (~age 80 at the time) and several of her senior citizen friends, male and female.  The ladies all agreed that when they'd gotten married, they didn't know anything about the birds and the bees, and surely not in any detail.  Guess what?  They hated it.  They hated not knowing what was going on, not knowing what was going to happen their wedding night, not knowing if something was wrong or not with their body when unusual things happened.  My gramma would LOVE to know that girls were able to learn what's going on with their bodies, and learn how to take care of their periods in a responsible, practical manner.

Finally, you seem to be missing the fact that this entire ad was done in a laughing, mocking spirit.  There's not really a girl out there who was the "camp gyno".  The details in the ad are all exaggeration -- and that's something that the average 10-15 year old girl will both understand and find hysterical.

There's nothing wrong with advertising tampons and pads, and there's nothing wrong with advertising them in a way which resonates with a particular subset of tampon/pad users.

SarahConfran
SarahConfran

@mrbomb13 "I promise that the 'vag' did not enter into our streams of thought.  It's disgusting that passes as acceptable in society today." So every month when a teenage girl bleeds from her vagina you also want her to be unaware she has one? I absolutely love the ad. And I'm the one buying tampons so its really my opinion that counts (and anyone else who buys tampons). 

spookiewriter
spookiewriter

@mrbomb13 -Did someone have a bad experience going to the store and picking something up for Mom when they were young?

S_Deemer
S_Deemer

@mrbomb13 : Obviously different people react in different ways. I thought this ad was incredibly positive, as well as very, very funny, and wonderfully supportive at a potentially difficult time in a woman's life. There's nothing disgusting about it.

Piacevole
Piacevole

mrbimb, If I recall correctly, Joan of Arc was burned at the stake for following her "God-driven convictions."  Do you have a dfferent story? At the behest of a bishop, at that.  So, perhaps there is some discrepancy between just what constitutes a "God-driven conviction" between various people and across time eras.

But, more to the point, menarche is one of the milestones in a female's life, and little girls deserve to know what's happening, and how to deal with it.  Since it has never, and will never, affect you, personally, perhaps you might just maintain an appropriate distance, neither commenting nor taking umbrage.

Next, one of the problems our species has is its frequent unwillingness to come to terms with anything involving sexuality.  We would be much better off, all the way around, if we simply treated it as a normal part of live, instead of trying to pretend it is somehow separate: it is not.

FrankBlank
FrankBlank

@mrbomb13  "God driven convictions...."  Are you absolutely sure they weren't delusions driven by lead in the water?  Or the routine hallucinations of a mild psychotic break?  (Aural hallucinations are much more common than visual; did God speak to her?) 

But that aside, "kid in the 90's":  you're pretty young.  How did you become so twisted and perved out that you are so dead set against a little biological discussion in pop media?  Would you prefer that girls be ignorant when they it start having their periods and then be sent to see their perverted, money grubbing, mega church TV pastor to find out what is happening to them?  

twoze
twoze


@mrbomb13 "When I was a kid (in the 1990s), such words were unknown to us.  We watched Disney, Power Rangers, and played N64/Game Boy.  I promise that the 'vag' did not enter into our streams of thought."

 Wow, you really nailed it there, Einstein. The important thing is that girls entering puberty remain unaware that they have a vagina!

orangeplasticfish
orangeplasticfish

Well, you are obviously a conservative Christian male who is largely ignorant of teenage female subcluture. Moreover, you don't seem to have much empathy and compassion for preteen and teenage girls. Why am I not surprised?

JenniferBonin
JenniferBonin

@karyncooks Yeah, I remember an old Judy Blume book ("Are You There God, It's Me, Margaret", I think?) where the discussions between pre-teen girls very much resembled the girls in this ad.  Personally, I never felt that way myself (but then, I was a gymnast and really didn't want to deal with a period!).  But a lot of girls do, and even for those who don't think it's a "red badge of courage", they're all curious and a little scared.  This was a good way of bringing the topic into the open in a silly-but-cool way which kids might pay attention to.

twoze
twoze

@punkakes13 "thinkin" doesn't seem to be your strong suit. Take a deep breath and count to ten, and I bet the urge will pass.

orangeplasticfish
orangeplasticfish

Girls these days are having their first period as early as fourth grade. Are you going to keep a fourth grade girl ignorant of her biology until she finds herself bleeding in a girl's bathroom at school?

AmyZimmerman
AmyZimmerman

@oceanformeme It is private and personal, but natural and happens to almost every female.  Must we hide our bodily functions in the closet with everything else?  Thank God, there is a little more room in there these days, but come on.  They do grow up fast enough, which is why being informed, unashamed and feeling as "normal" as possible while these changes occur, is appropriate indeed.  Bravo!  I love it! 

XiraArien1
XiraArien1

@leon1376 @mrbomb13 

Your child has about a 3% chance of having her (or his) no-no place touched by the age of 12. Less than 1% of it being touched by someone outside of his age group intent on some sort of sexual gratification.

End the hysteria that equates a lying 17 year old with an 8 year old who's held down and sodomized until she can no longer bear children.

http://llltexas.com <- my blog

lucereta
lucereta

@CoolLady @mrbomb13 Oh, good Lord, not this.  Young girls wear tampons.  In fact, very few wear pads.  Many, many of my peers were wearing tampons when I was 13, and that was 3 decades ago.

JanetinDelaware
JanetinDelaware

Advertising for Viagra/Cialis and male testostrerone products okay but not female hygienne products?  Sensible info about mensuration does not equate with promiscuity! 

mrbomb13
mrbomb13

@FrankBlank @mrbomb13 

First, thanks for your reply.  Just a couple of comments:

1) According to the Christian faith, Joan was driven by those convictions.  As such, Christians take that narrative on a faith-based viewpoint.  It is faith that says God spoke to her.  Whatever a psychologist/psychiatrist might say is irrelevant.

2) No where did I advocate anatomical ignorance for girls.  Instead, I would advocate that their parents and teachers educate them on the matter.  "Pop media" should not factor into that discussion.

mrbomb13
mrbomb13

@twoze @mrbomb13 

First, thanks for your reply.  Just a couple of comments:

1) No where did I say that girls should remain ignorant/clueless about their anatomy.  Instead, what I advocate is that parents and teachers assume the role/responsibility of that subject matter.  I don't believe that corporate-sponsored mass media advertisements should do that job.

mrbomb13
mrbomb13

@orangeplasticfish 

First, thanks for your reply.  Just a couple of comments:

1) How do you know that I'm 1) Republican, and 2) Christian?  I could be Muslim, Jewish, Atheist, etc..  It seems as though you're playing up stereotypes instead of inquiring as to my religious preferences (or lack thereof).

2) As a teacher, I am very much aware of the multitude of teenage subcultures.  However, just because those cultures exist does not mean we as adults (and educators) have to tolerate them.

3) I have plenty of compassion/empathy for teenagers of both genders.  However, I do not believe that the mass media (especially corporations) should be doing the job of parents and educators on these topics.

leon1376
leon1376

@orangeplasticfish You're deliberately missing the issue. Why put things out there that grab the attention of child predators? Should a little boy talk about his plumbing in a commercial? Would that be acceptable to you? A commercial for chocolate or friend chicken or pizza will make you crave chocolate or fried chicken or pizza. If you have a girl-child talking about her "vag", a child predator is going to get the urge. Deny it all you like, but that's just the way it works. It's just adding fuel to the fire. 

XiraArien1
XiraArien1

@leon1376 @XiraArien1 @mrbomb13 

I can't say I'm a happy person, no. Never really have been, so I guess I'm stuck with myself.

If you have a study or report of a study that indicates it's over 1%, I would like to see it.

leon1376
leon1376

@XiraArien1 @leon1376 @mrbomb13 Wow you sure are a tangle of unresolved issues. Phrases such as "lying 17 year old" and "held down and sodomized". Yuck! I'd hate to be the Vulcan who does a mind-meld with you. Lots of snakes and squirmy things writhing around in there. Have you ever considered moving to Yemen? Seems you'd be more in your element. Just saying... (By the way, it's >1%) 

melissanypirg
melissanypirg

@mrbomb13@twoze Nine year olds watch Disney. Nine year old girls also get their periods. Many parents are unprepared or unaware of their child's puberty and menstruation, especially since it happens earlier and earlier these days. Especially in situations where there is a single father. Especially since schools are not teaching sex education and not teaching children what to expect. In many cases, by the time schools get around to teaching about puberty and what to expect from your changing body it is too late, some girls have already started menstruating. Many children, preteens, and even teens are embarrassed or ashamed to talk to their mothers about the bleeding. 

It may not have been socially acceptable in your 'days' to  talk about one's body and puberty and periods but it needs to be. Girls and women shouldn't be afraid to talk about their bodies and their periods but our male dominated society imposes the belief that we SHOULD be ashamed of our bodies.

XiraArien1
XiraArien1

@leon1376 @orangeplasticfish 

I do plan to inform my boy about his 'gear' and what not to touch under any circumstances at the earliest age possible. There is very much a danger of him doing something totally innocent and getting charged with rape for it by the age of 12.

http://llltexas.com <- my blog