AWWA ‘bloody’ period brand ad banned on Facebook

Committed to changing the stigma around periods, AWWA has produced a realistic TV commercial as part of their brand campaign which showcases the future of period care in the most real way.

AWWA is New Zealand’s first period underwear brand, offering sustainable and modern alternatives to traditional single-use period products. Their ethically manufactured range looks and feels like normal underwear but can hold and absorb up to five regular pads or tampons worth of blood.

In an effort to demonstrate the benefits of their reusable products, AWWA released their first ever 90-second commercial on October 1. The progressive ad is set during lockdown and features two flatmates menstruating in synchronicity although with contrasting experiences. One of them wears AWWA and embodies freedom and ease as they connect with nature, while their flatmate encounters the hassles and discomforts associated with using traditional period products. The honest portrayal reveals the emotions and normalities experienced during menstruation, including real blood, never seen before on national television. 

The ad is currently playing unskippable on TVNZ OnDemand and Youtube. It was also intended to play on Facebook, however the social media platform has since banned this from happening.

AWWA was told from Facebook’s policy team that the ad’s content “violates the Shock and Scare policy, so the ad remains disapproved. ‘Ads must not contain shocking, sensational, disrespectful or excessively violent content’, as per the policy.” Other examples of rejected ad content that falls within this same policy includes ads depicting violence, mutilation, torture, graphic medical procedures, etc.

AWWA does not agree that their ad fits this criteria and has since reached out to Spencer Bailey, Head of New Zealand Facebook, but has not received a response.

The brand’s intention was never to shock or offend viewers but to instead create a realistic campaign that all menstruators could relate to saysHolly Dean McDaniel, AWWA Global Brand Director.

“As many will recall, we grew up watching period ads that made us feel embarrassed about having a period. The elephant in the room, the actual period, was always absent from these ads. AWWA is challenging the status quo, sparking positive conversations and in-turn normalising menstruating for all people that period,” says Dean.

Co-founders, Michele Wilson and Kylie Matthews are advocates for unpacking the stigma that all menstruators have faced. They believe it’s time to change the narrative and start talking about periods realistically.

With the help of positive comments from fans, AWWA was able to create a censored version of the commercial that highlights real feedback from the people they made the ad for. The 15-second censored Facebook ad links through to the brand’s website, which plays the full uncensored version. Viewers’ responses have vastly differed from the Facebook policy team’s.

“It’s disappointing that Facebook doesn’t want to normalise the conversation around periods in 2021. The aim of AWWA’s campaign was to remove the stigma and taboos from what is a perfectly normal bodily function that half the population experience. It wasn’t meant to be deliberately shocking or sensational, but to show the relaties that many of us face on a monthly basis. We are passionate about removing the shame and secrecy around menstruation, and instead celebrate periods as our Māori Tunpuna (ancestors) would,” says Michele Wilson, AWWA Co-founder and CEO. 

View the 15-second censored commercial: AWWA | The FB Edit


Film Production 4&5 Films
Producer: Ursula Grace
Director/DOP: Harriett Stella
Directors Assistant: Isabella Duffus
Creative & Strategy: Holly Dean McDaniel
Photography: Holly Sarah Burgess
Photography Assistant: Sophie Smith
Media Agency: Megaphone Melbourne
Senior Account Manager: Rachael Sanders
Account Executive: Zara McGuffie
Māori Advisors: Dr Ngahuia Murphy & Stacey Morrison

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