Monday, November 15, 2004

Feeling not so fresh?

[Note: This entry was alternately titled, How Jenny Loses Her Male Readership in One Fell Swoop. Sorry gents, this article had to be written. You can check back in a few days.]

Rarely does product advertising annoy me enough to feel the need to write about it. Heck, I work in marketing, so I kind of like advertising. Usually I'm pretty oblivious to the nonstop onslaught of "New!" and "Reformulated!" and "Refreshing!" messages that bombard us on an hourly basis. But last week something happened to change all that. I went to my favorite store in the entire world, Target, to stock up on everything that one stocks up on when visiting said Mecca: cleaning supplies, laundry detergent, Kleenex, tube socks, clearance Halloween marshmallow Peeps, and, you know… feminine hygiene products.

So I’m in the feminine product aisle, which is oddly located right next to the electronics section. Come to think of it, maybe Target is trying to establish some sort of in-store matchmaking service. I can almost see it play out: I’m rushing out of the woman aisle, arms full of sanitary products, when I run head-on into a dashing young man who is walking out of the electronics department. We collide. A torrent of DVD’s, batteries, and FDS feminine deodorant spray rains down upon our heads. I nervously gather up my items, cheeks burning with embarrassment and intrigue. I look up. Our eyes meet. As he hands me my box of Tampax tampons, now in new Compak® design, our hands briefly touch. It’s electric. He leans in for a kiss and…

But I digress.

When I got home from Target and started putting away my purchases, reveling in all the money I saved by purchasing in bulk, I noticed a strange graphic on the box of Kotex feminine pads. (Sidebar – I think they finally stopped calling them sanitary napkins. Amen to that!) On the cover of the box, there’s a picture of the little package the pad comes in, with the word: “Ssshhh!” on it.


Wait a minute - did my Kotex pad just shush me? I look closer and notice that the text underneath the ssshhh says, “Quietest Pouch!” Well it’s high time someone got rid of those noisy pouches, always with the yak, yak, yak. Thank god, I can finally hear myself think above the din of menstruating women all across the world simultaneously ripping open their pads!

This still isn’t really making sense to me, so I flip the box over, hoping for some further explanation. I found what I was looking for – on the back, selling point #4 is “Quiet, cloth-like pouch for discretion.”

Discretion? When was the last time you were in a ladies room and came out of the stall only to see half a dozen women laughing and pointing and throwing tampons at you. (Okay, maybe if your name is Carrie, but she got them back. She got them real good.) How much more discrete can you get than a microthin little pink square that easily fits into your back pocket? I mean, it’s not like they used to install car alarms inside the pouches.

It’s yet another absurd advertising message designed to convince women that their monthly cycles are dirty and humiliating. Devil woman! You must be ashamed of this cycle that confounds the non-bleeders! How dare you flaunt your fertility with the deafening sounds of plastic packages opening in the ladies room!? Goody Jenny is a witch! She bleeds without dying! Burn her! Burn her!

I mean, granted, I agree that we need to exercise some modicum of discretion, just like you would with any bodily function that requires you to retire to the ladies room. It’s not like I’m suggesting women walk around all week and advertise their periods by dangling tampons from their ears and slapping pads all over their clothes like post-it notes.

But are these advertisers truly trying to suggest that in 2004, focus group studies showed that women’s #4 concern was the humiliating and reputation-sullying sound of plastic tearing as we opened our pads? Now, I realize I’ve only been dealing with this issue for the past 20 years or so, but if you’re opening up a pad, you’re pretty much either in your own home, or in some public ladies restroom, right? If you’re at home, who gives a rat’s ass, and if you’re in a ladies room, you’re in a room with other ladies. Who. Also. Use. These. Products!

Well I say, screw you, Madison Avenue marketing geniuses. You want to “ssshhh” me? I don’t think so. So I’m starting a new movement. Everything old is new again. That’s right. I’m bringing back the sanitary belt. Wear it loud, wear it proud! What’s that sticking out of your low rider jeans? Hint: it’s not a thong. You heard me! The belt is back!

We’ve come a long way, baby.