Behind the Work in association withThe Immortal Awards

How ‘Periodsomnia’ Called and Bodyform Answered

Advertising Agency
London, UK
The teams at AMV BBDO and Essity speak to LBB’s Zoe Antonov about the category-defining work for Bodyform and why women should never be ashamed of insomnia on their period

Bodyform’s (Libresse or Saba in the US) announcement for their day and night core products , that are meant to adapt better to women+’s bodies and bodily functions, came with a bang. With the help of AMV BBDO and the directorial mastery of Kim Gehrig, the campaign film accompanying  the announcement opens the floodgates to a long forgotten (or, actually, never remembered) discussion - ‘periodsomnia’ – he excruciating pain and extreme discomfort of having a period during the night that for many of us feels like a moment in life that never leaves the bedroom. Rarely in discussions with friends, or with our family, it’s something we all experience, but never open up about. Libresse, reflecting the brand’s pillars from their previous campaigns such as ‘Viva la Vulva’, took it upon themselves to change this once and for all. 

Left “struck” by the fact that nobody in the health & wellness category dared to portray nighttime periods, AMV BBDO readily took on the challenge to do so, in style and with the expected level of raw humanity that audiences would expect from their collab with the brand. In fact, not only did the category neglect to convey the reality of the hellish experience of having a period overnight, but over the years it perpetuated a narrative of the relaxed, painless experience of menstruating during the night. We have all seen the stretch of relief in the morning and the peaceful sleep pictured in adverts for nighttime period products - an experience that simply never (or very rarely) happens. While Bodyform realises that no product can provide a fully bump-free ride on your period, nor can it solve the issues that arise during the night (or day), they set out a promise that their products “are designed to help you feel more protected and comfortable, so you can sleep better throughout the night,” says Luciana De Azevedo Lara, FemCare communications manager at Essity. “After all, periods never sleep, but why shouldn’t we?”

Using a thermal camera to depict and normalise the stress of sleeping on your period, the Bodyform #periodsomnia campaign film is a raw look into what women+ go through monthly, or even more often, that starts a conversation long overdue. AMV BBDO’s strategy partner Margaux Revol, board account director Sarah Hore-Lacy, creatives Anzhela Hayrabedyan and Luca Crosso, as well as Tanja Grubner, FemCare global marketing and communications director at Essity, all spoke to LBB’s Zoe Antonov about the groundbreaking work they did with #periodsomnia in the health & wellness category and what they expect to see change in the future. 

LBB> What was the brief for this campaign and what were the initial conversations surrounding it?

Margaux> As Libresse was relaunching their core products for day and for night, adapting better to women+’s bodies and positions, they needed our help to announce it powerfully. It struck us that for anyone with periods, the night is the torture test for a brand - if it has your back at night, when you’re having to relinquish control, surely it can deliver during the day too. 

We were also absolutely struck by the fact that no one in the category had ever portrayed the reality of periods at night in an authentic, meaningful, relatable way. It was always just another Truman show trope, with a happy generic woman waking up looking perfect and stretching her arms gracefully. 

Looking further in culture too, you realise that when women are in bed, it’s most often to be sexy and have sex with a man or to be a sleeping beauty - but statistically, given we have our periods almost one in four days of the month, chances are you’re just having a shit night dealing with your periods. Which nobody seemed to acknowledge.

So there seemed to be a white space for Libresse to make a splash and be once again the most meaningful brand to women+.

Interestingly, the topic of sleep was gaining traction in culture, telling people how critical the quality of their sleep is. And there has been the beginning of an acknowledgment of the gender sleep gap - by which it’s becoming more known that women tend to be more sleep deprived than men, due to a combination of extra parenting duties, mental load and anxiety. But the link to periods was rarely made, when it is such a massive factor in our quality and quantity of sleep. And we wanted to be the brand that puts the issue on people’s radar and make them talk about it, and have more empathy.


LBB> What periods look like at night - a topic certainly forgotten in the mainstream discourse. How did the idea come up?

Sarah> We did a lot of listening, reading, interviewing, to get under the skin of the experiences of periods at night and this was pretty clear: The night is meant to be a sanctuary, a time and place to let go, rest up and recharge. But when you have your periods, it’s anything but. The amount of people who lay down some towels or extra sheets, put on several pairs of underwear out of fear, toss and turn, feel hot, crampy, sweaty, bloaty, anxious, restless…Our partners or kids or pets seem to be having a great night - and we just feel awe and envy. We sometimes discover our period in the middle of the night which we weren’t prepared for, we tiptoe to the bathroom to not make our problem anyone else’s problem, run baths or showers in the middle of the night, we try to kill our pain with pills, or with pleasure…The bleeding, the struggling, the farting, the melting, the masturbating, the worrying…No part of this was ever making it to the screen, and it felt hugely important for us to make it a reality.

Luca> Even the surreal part of it is real. An eye being pulled is what it feels like to be still awake at three am, the feeling of melting down the side of the bed is how hot some people can get, a body stretched in all directions is what cramps are for many…

We wanted to show the surreal reality of a night on your period, and therefore to really land all those insights we needed to visually stretch them.


LBB> You have a legacy of period product campaigns that have left a permanent mark on popular culture - how do you make sure to keep it up, production and idea wise, and is there a lot of pressure?

Margaux> Of course, there’s a lot of pressure that we put on ourselves to keep being outstandingly relevant and meaningful to women+. There’s a huge amount of work that goes into strategy, creative and production and we all work symbiotically until we’re satisfied with the result. But of course, we don’t just start digging into women+’s experiences the day our clients brief us. We’re constantly immersed in the category and in culture to know what extra pieces to the puzzle are needed.


LBB> Tell us more about the usage of the thermal camera and what was the goal behind it?

Anzhela> To reflect the dream-like state when you are half awake half asleep on the nights of our period, we wanted to make this film surreal, but never fantastical. Thermal imagery gives us this visual surrealism, but it’s in fact only capturing reality. It reads temperature and beautifully translates it into colours. If we then animate these colours, we can bring each insight to life in an expressive way. So, we’re not inventing a new reality, but simply heightening the one we all go through.


LBB> What was the main message you wanted to portray through the film?

Luca> The sense of solidarity plays a huge part for us. Kim had in mind to create a sense of a collective space where all women come together. A dream? The subconscious? It’s a feeling, a moment of togetherness to remind everyone that no matter how lonely your night might feel, you’re not alone. This is also when we hear their voices, describing their period in their own words taken from the original casting tapes. And when you think it's all finally going quiet, the loud techno comes straight back in to remind us again that periods never sleep.


LBB> Tell us more about the usage of the music throughout and its importance.

Anzhela> The night is always associated with peace, but a night on our period is anything but quiet. When you’re struggling to sleep, it’s in fact really loud, but we never talk about that. It’s loud inside our bodies. It’s loud in our heads. It’s chaotic, messy and irrational so to be truthful to that and break the idea of the perfect sleeping beauty, we needed to be unexpected: an upbeat techno track that doesn’t let you sleep, just like our period.

And even when we finally manage to close our eyes, our body never really does. ‘Deep inside’ is never quiet.


LBB> Talk to us more about the importance of inclusivity when it comes to period related commercials, and how that relates to the brand's pillars.

Tanja> The category has been so hyper-obsessed and focused on portraying and addressing young women, it’s almost as if you stopped having your periods or lost your vagina after the age of 30. We were also struck by the absence of diversity that was contributing to making every ad feel unrelatable and setting unrealistic standards on top of telling people to just feel confident. Over the years, we’ve been leading the charge in inclusivity to make everyone feel welcome, seen and catered to from first period to last.


LBB> There is a certain amount of bravery always involved in portraying the reality of periods - from simply showing blood on screen, to the laying of the red towel on the bed. Do you think period commercials and overall campaigns related to these issues should be bolder and do you see a move towards the right direction?

Sarah> Since our campaign ‘Bloodnormal’ over five years ago, we’ve seen huge progress in the category with many brands following suit and using red liquid too. It’s not always done very tactfully and can seem a bit formulaic, which people can sense.

It takes a lot of bravery and empathy to constantly be the one to push the boundaries and do it beautifully - to touch, not to shock.

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