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How TBWA\Chiat\Day LA Is Tackling Period Poverty With ‘Period Piece’ PSAs



TBWA\Chiat\Day LA’s creative director Tescia Deak and strategic planner Hannah Schweitzer speak to LBB about creating a film and social campaign of ‘period piece PSAs’ with influencers that educate about period poverty - a modern problem that should be left in the past

How TBWA\Chiat\Day LA Is Tackling Period Poverty With ‘Period Piece’ PSAs

TBWA\Chiat\Day LA recently partnered with PERIOD, the global non-profit that strives to eradicate period poverty through service, education, and advocacy. Framing period poverty as old fashioned and comparing today’s situation with living in the old ages, the campaign partners with period actors, activists, influencers, and comedians to emphasise the shocking reality that it’s 2021 and period poverty is still not an issue of the past.

Statistics from State of the Period 2021 show that nearly a quarter of menstruating teens can’t afford period products, resulting in decisions such as choosing between buying period products, food and clothing. Many students also miss school as a result of menstruation - which, according to the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics, puts them 145 days behind their non-menstruating counterparts. Additionally, the shame and embarrassment that still surrounds the topic has a significant impact - State of the Period 2021 shows that over half of menstruators feel shame for simply being on their period. It’s this shame, as well as the economic issue of period poverty, that the PERIOD Piece PSA campaign is hoping to solve.

Supplemented by the ‘Red Plague’ film, the campaign involves a social strategy where influencers and the general public alike can create their own ‘Period Piece PSAs’ using toolkits created by TBWA\Chiat\Day LA. For the social campaign, talent including Drunk History’s Sarah Burns, Les Mis Actor Nick Cartell and Tiktok star Dr. Jennifer Lincoln, have created their own parody-style monologues that teach people about period poverty, all based in 17th through early 19th-century wardrobe and language. 

To learn more about how the campaign was put together and how they plan to dispel the shame surrounding period poverty, LBB’s Ben Conway spoke with TBWA\Chiat\Day LA’s creative director Tescia Deak and strategic planner Hannah Schweitzer.

LBB>  What was the creative spark for this campaign? Did PERIOD have an initial brief, or did you approach them with the idea?

Tescia> Period poverty is an invisible oppression that many menstruators face. Menstruators around the world have inadequate access to menstrual hygiene products due to them being limited & expensive. In the US, 64% of menstruators reported having difficulty affording menstrual products in their lifetime. Some menstruators worldwide are forced to use unhygienic substitutes to deal with their cycles. Problems like these are things that feel stuck in the past because we are not talking about them more openly. Periods should not hold anyone back, period.

Last year in 2020, I wanted to utilise my creativity for good and find ways to contribute my passion for change. Through PERIOD’s advocacy, education, and service program, I set up the Los Angeles Community Chapter for the youth-fueled movement. In May of 2021, I met Damaris Pereda, National Programs Director at a rally in LA for AB367 and the relationship between TBWA\Chiat\Day LA and PERIOD was born. 

My colleagues Hannah Schweitzer and Jen Costello worked fast to put an amazingly thoughtful brief together, and we had an overwhelming response of participation from across all departments, which led to 75 creative ideas in just three days. We briefed on September 7th with only one month lead time to Period Action Day on October 9th. It was a sprint! 

LBB> For the uninitiated, why is period poverty an important discussion to be involved in right now?

Tescia> The burden of period poverty creates a cycle of period shame and period stigma that affects menstruators' education opportunities, ability to earn wages, mental health, including anxiety and depression, life-threatening infections and making decisions between choosing food or menstrual products. Right now, in the US and abroad, the tax on menstrual products has been coined the ‘Tampon Tax’. Menstrual products should be tax-exempt. They should be affordable and available for all. After all, it’s a human right. Thus far, only 23 states have eradicated the Tampon Tax in the U.S. and only one or two states are planning and willing to provide free menstrual products to students. Laws like AB267 in California and the Menstrual Equity for All Act, which was submitted to Congress in May 2021, are two pieces of legislation that can help end period poverty in our lifetime.

LBB> Why did you want to partner with PERIOD for this campaign? 

Tescia> PERIOD is one of the largest global nonprofits for menstrual equity, helping to end period poverty and period stigma through service education and advocacy with chapters in over 49 states and 50 countries worldwide. PERIOD is on track to distribute five million menstrual products for 2021, provides educational resources for menstruators and allies, and advocates for change through policy and legislation. The small but mighty team is incredible, and we share the same values.

LBB> The period-period wordplay is an inspired idea, and clearly is the basis from which the creative stems. How did you come up with and develop this idea?

Tescia> This brilliant idea and wordplay was a product from our open brief conceived by one of our senior creatives Kristi Lira. 

Kristi> Period poverty still exists because of society’s ridiculous, archaic beliefs and behaviours. It’s something we should read about in history books, not today’s newspapers. It feels like something straight out of a period piece. Meanwhile, period pieces have always been a popular genre and ripe for satire that would communicate how absurd it is that period poverty is still a thing. 

LBB> The social strategy is a really engaging aspect of the campaign, why did you decide to involve activists and influencers in the project? And how did you develop the social media strategy of getting them to film their own PSAs in character?

Tescia> What better way to launch our Period Piece PSAs than to do it with period piece actors, directors, activists and influencers? People who already have period acting experience and align with period poverty activism. For them to launch the idea was key in encouraging the public to get involved and create their own PSA to help raise awareness. We also timed it with Period Action Day to build on the momentum already created from PERIOD. To eliminate any barriers for participation due to timing and schedules, we built toolkits with scripts, soundtracks, backgrounds, costume references, as well as information on period poverty.  We also encouraged talent to create their own period pieces. We received tremendous feedback from our outreach and potential involvement to help PERIOD. 

Hannah> Right now, Gen Z menstruators are the folks propelling the menstrual equity movement forward. In order to end period poverty, we need multiple generations and non-menstruators to be part of the fight. By working with influencers, we were able to reach untapped audiences via the people that they admire. Period Piece PSAs highlight the absurdity of period poverty being a modern-day issue while teaching people how period poverty affects education, careers, families, mental health, and physical health. We looked for a diverse group of comedians, period piece actors, and activists (both menstruators and non-menstruators) who were eager to over-act while at the same time were trusted so their followers would be open to learn from them. 

LBB> You also made a really useful toolkit available for anyone to get involved and make their own PSA - could you talk us through the process of creating the toolkit? 

Tescia> Coming out of our open brief, we formed a core group of creatives, strategists, connections directors, PR wizards and brand leaders to help craft our toolkit and outreach. We paired Kristi Lira, who has a background in comedy writing and improv from UCB with Emma Z. Green who has an MFA in Theater and a background in directing. Through a couple of writers' room sessions with even more creatives and strategists, we crafted a large batch of monologue and dialogue scripts and identified pieces that could work for everyone as well as bespoke scripts for influencers and actors. We knew the scripts had to be easy to remember, entertaining and short to live across our platforms. Making them fun was important but getting to the point was imperative. Each piece needed to play off the idea ‘We're not living in a period piece, so why are periods’ and be actionable ‘Make period poverty a thing of the past. Donate to PERIOD now’. Each script tapped into insights of period poverty that were present in the 17th-19th-century parody genre as well as present-day, including lost wages, missing school, anxiety and depression, taxation as a luxury item, hygiene, and shame.

Hannah> We love toolkits! The more people that become part of this movement, the better! The toolkit outlines a way for people to make their own ‘Period Piece PSA’ on TikTok or Instagram by using pre-recorded lip-sync sounds, pre-written scripts, fun green screen backdrops and DIY costume ideas. We also welcomed people to create their own performance inspired by the existing work. For those that aren’t as theatrical, the toolkit also provides period piece-themed graphics and a list of eye-opening statistics around period poverty for people to use to craft their own static posts. 

When writing scripts for anyone to use or be inspired by, we kept inclusivity in mind. The period movement is mostly led by Gen Z menstruators. So, we wanted non-menstruators to play a part as advocates and the characters in our scripts include vague and varying ages. We also wanted each script to hone into a specific issue around period poverty. For example, ‘Such Luxury’ touches on how menstrual products are treated as luxury products, ‘Scarlet P’ talks about the shame around periods, and ‘Menstruation Enlightenment’ covers how one in four menstruating students have to miss school because of period poverty. 

LBB> Do you have a favourite PSA that you have seen? Why is it so effective?

Hannah> It’s super hard to pick one piece - all of the influencers went above and beyond to take their scripts to a whole new level. But, if we had to pick, we are super excited about the Period Piece PSA created by TBWA\Chiat\Day’s own Talent Manager, Rachel Kaftan! Rachel’s piece is super effective in that she not only brought 100% theatrics, but she normalized period blood by wearing tampon earrings. Those were such a creative touch! 

LBB> Do you plan on supporting the social campaign further into the future?

Hannah> Period poverty is a global issue. So, we are working with our global collective to make more noise about this issue across the world. We are workshopping how the idea of ‘period pieces’ can extend into different countries. This movement is not something for just a fragment of time, this is something we want to end in our lifetime.

LBB> Why did you decide parody-style monologues would be the most effective strategy for this important topic and for educating people?

Tescia> We wanted to craft something fun and enjoyable to wake people up and encourage them to be a part of the movement. We ultimately grounded the idea in the 17th–19th centuries for consistency, and it doesn’t hurt that accents from that era, especially the British ones, are just plain fun.

Hannah> We are seeing the media and people talk more openly about menstruation and because of this, one can assume that period poverty has been solved. It can be easy to view period poverty as a minor inconvenience and not a widespread issue. Period poverty stops people from reaching their full potential. When you think about how archaic period poverty actually is, you wonder, ‘why the heck is this still happening?’ and want to join the fight. We wanted the monologues to be parody-style in order to spotlight how absurd it is that in 2021 people have to skip school or work just because of a lack of access to menstrual products. 


LBB> Government bodies and large corporations have been the target for scrutiny and protests regarding period poverty in recent years. How does the campaign try to target those with the power to end period poverty (such as governments)? 

Tescia> Only 23 states have eradicated the Tampon Tax in the U.S., and only one or two states are planning to provide free menstrual products to students. We have work to do if we were to really eradicate period poverty in our nation. We want to work with state and federal governments to help remove the Tampon Tax creating a more equitable and inclusive system for all. That means all menstruators without any labels. Bills like AB367 in California put menstrual products and information in the bathrooms of every restroom of public schools and the Menstrual Equity for All Act are pieces of legislation that can help end period poverty in our lifetime. Gaining the attention of VP Kamala Harris and bi-partisan representatives of congress that align with our efforts would be the key to helping us make that happen faster. 

While many brands have partnered with PERIOD to donate and provide products to those in need, there are always more opportunities to explore. Of course, if they want to create a Period Piece PSA, we’d love to see them join the movement and the fight against period poverty! 

LBB> Could you walk us through the process of creating the ‘Red Plague’ film? How did you develop the creative idea, research, and write the script?

Tescia> Across the world, cultures have been covering up menstruation for centuries. Every language has dozens of names for it, avoiding the actual word at all costs. Not talking about our menstruation makes us subservient and complicit in the idea that it’s something to be ashamed of - this is the invisible oppression behind period poverty. During our writer's room sessions, we developed a couple of dialogue-based scripts. We wrote the script as an example of how absurd the euphemisms for menstruation are and to help people understand that if we call it what it is we can help end period poverty. Period.

LBB> When discussing a topic that is as important and in the public eye right now as combatting period poverty is, what things do you have to consider? Is it a challenge to find the right tone and approach for example?

Tescia> These parts take place in a specific time period, but all ethnicities, gender identities, ages, etc., are not just welcomed, but are encouraged to participate. Some parts feature Menstruators and/or Non-Menstruators. We’re parodying period pieces and the olden times in general - and we encourage people to have fun. We just asked everyone to be respectful and inclusive of all people and the important topic at hand -  period poverty.

Hannah> Period poverty is an invisible oppression. Those who face period poverty are experiencing two major types of shame: period shame and poverty shame. So, we wanted to peel people’s eyes open to this shocking problem. Our goal was to go beyond pulling at heartstrings and instead, insert ourselves into pop culture to wake people up. This is how we found a world where we can tap into today’s period piece phenomenon (think Bridgerton). 

We played off the absurdity through the parodying of period pieces to reel people in with entertainment, then we had the influencers break character with hard-hitting facts and a call to action. This helped us strike the right balance where we were able to point out the ridiculousness of society, but never at the expense of mistreating the issue or menstruators. When influencers broke character at the end, we were able to put an authentic emphasis on how absurd it is that period poverty is widespread in modern society. The breaking of character was also important in making sure we clearly landed the message as a PSA versus any other piece of social content.

LBB> What was the biggest challenge you faced making this campaign? And how did you overcome it?

Tescia> Time and money were our obstacles that were overwhelmingly overcome by passion, hard work and teamwork.

Hannah> Our goal was to not only spread awareness and teach people about period poverty, but to get people on board to great actionable change. We wanted our work to be so eye-opening and captivating that we incite donations so PERIOD can continue to donate menstrual products and work with legislators to write bills that create systematic change. Because pop culture is loving period pieces right now, we knew that starting off in a period setting would pull viewers in and get them listening intently. By working with trusted influencers and having the influencers end the video as themselves encouraging donations, we were able to get more people involved. Since we launched Period Piece PSAs, we’ve helped PERIOD raise almost $250k towards efforts ending period poverty. We also saw Michigan’s House of Representatives pass the bill to repeal the ‘tampon tax’ (House Bill 4270 and House Bill 5267) and Pennsylvania is now discussing the Pennsylvania Menstrual Health Equity Act.

LBB> Do you have anything to add about the campaign or a message to others in the industry regarding period poverty?

Hannah> Shout out to the amazing people who helped create Period Piece PSAs. The team involves a ton of people who also donated their time, brains, talents, hidden talents, resources, friends, composer spouses and the list goes on and on. And a big thank you to everyone who listened and opened their eyes to this issue. The more we understand the impact of period poverty, the more power we have behind the period movement.

Tescia> Thank you for taking the time to read about our campaign and the behind-the-scenes of bringing it to life. In the first week that we launched we were able to help PERIOD almost double their fundraising efforts for the season. We hope to end period poverty in our lifetime and around the world, so we are going to take Period Piece PSAs on the road. More to come soon - stay tuned!

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TBWA\Chiat\Day LA, Tue, 02 Nov 2021 16:56:00 GMT