The vagina dialogues: taboo-busting Carefree keeps it real, readies itself for complaints

Here at StopPress we often start the week off with a frank discussion about vaginal discharge, so you can imagine our excitement when we saw an ad for Johnson & Johnson’s brand Carefree last night depicting a naked woman talking about the female body—and the role of its new acti-fresh product. But, rather than beat about the bush, so to speak, and use the obligatory ’patronising euphemisms‘ often associated with the category, the ad features the word vagina, and it’s thought to be one of the first times it has been used in a New Zealand TV ad.


The campaign, which is also launching in Australia and was created by 303Lowe, was triggered by research that showed that 71 percent of Australian women admit to
experiencing discharge while 66 percent are bothered by it. And the ad, which has been rated GXC (it may be broadcast at any time except during programmes which are intended specifically for children under the age of 13 and it is one rung below the PG rating), will be aired on all the major TV channels in New Zealand and, after checking with ASA, Johnson & Johnson, which moved its marketing team to Australia back in November, is expecting to get lots of complaints.  

“We have found that many women are
bothered by discharge yet do not know a lot about it, or how to manage it,” says Michelle Forster, Women’s Health Manager at Johnson & Johnson Pacific. ”While Carefree acti-fresh liners offer a simple solution for this perfectly normal issue, the
number of women using liners between their periods is significantly lower in New
Zealand than in countries such as Germany and the USA. We have decided to take a bold approach in this campaign with the aim to tackle
a subject which has always been taboo. We want to encourage women to talk
openly about their bodies, educating them both on discharge and the benefits of
using Carefree acti-fresh liners on a daily basis.”

Carefree is encouraging all women to visit www.mycarefree.co.nz to learn more and to try a free sample and the campaign drops at a time when the topic has been getting a fair bit of airtime in the media recently. Last month, US politician Lisa Brown was banned from addressing the Michigan House of Representatives after she read a statement about proposed abortion regulations that said: “Finally, Mr Speaker, I’m flattered that you’re all so interested in my vagina, but no means no” (here’s what Brown made of the furore that erupted after she uttered that phrase). 

Not long after this, UK feminine hygiene company Femfresh got a proper Facebooking for using terms like , ’lala’, ‘froo froo’, ‘kitty’, ‘va jay jay’ and ‘hoo-haa’ instead of vulva or vagina. US brand Kotex has also favoured the euphemistic approach by using the phrase ‘down there’, but it also took the mick (sorry) by featuring a friendly beaver. And we recently saw a Malaysian ad that brought vaginal odour to life, likening it to both a horny fish-like monster and one of the smelliest fruits known to man, the durian. 



What do you think? Should Carefree be applauded for keeping it real, or do consumers prefer their genitalia-related words to be minced? 

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