Facebook bans Modibodi’s ‘The new way to period’ ad for depictions of red ‘menstrual blood’

Modibodi’s ‘The new way to period’ campaign video, which launched this month, has been banned from running as an ad on Facebook following three reviews conducted by the platform.

Facebook has addressed the decision, telling Mumbrella the platform holds a “higher set of standards” for advertisements than organic content.

The three shots Facebook said needed to be removed in order for the ad to run

“I love the video that Modibodi has created to normalise periods, encourage discussion, and promote their underwear range,” said Facebook Australia and New Zealand director, Naomi Shepherd.

“Our Community Standards outline what is and isn’t allowed on our free services, however, when it comes to ads on Facebook we have a higher set of standards for what content can be included in an ad.

“Our Advertising Policies are more restrictive because they take paid distribution to appear in people’s personal News Feeds and clearly state that ads must not contain text or images that may shock or that focuses on someone’s personal attributes, including their physical or mental health condition.”

Facebook’s three reviews each resulted in the platform advising Modibodi to edit out three scenes that use the colour red to represent menstrual blood. Mumbrella understands Modibodi is not currently planning to edit the ad.

The campaign film is still available on Modibodi’s Facebook and Instagram pages as an organic video. The issue surrounds the video being served as a paid advertisement in users’ news feeds.

The brand’s publicly accessible Facebook Ad Library shows 27 ads currently active, some of which are clips from the campaign film.

The Modibodi ad alludes to menstrual blood by depicting red stains on bedsheets and red liquid being rinsed out of a pair of Modibodi’s underwear, and follows Libra’s controversial #BloodNormal campaign last year.

Similarly to Modibodi, Libra’s #BloodNormal also challenged consumers and the advertising industry by rejecting the trope of demonstrating pad absorbency with blue liquid by using the colour red instead. The ad also presented viewers with the realities of experiencing a period whilst showering, swimming and working, and posed the question ‘Why is it considered unacceptable to show period blood?’

However, #BloodNormal was the industry watchdog Ad Standards’ most complained about ad of 2019. Amongst the 738 complaints the ad received, viewers labelled it ‘degrading’, ‘offensive’, ‘dangerous to young girls’, ‘appealing to pedophiles’ and compared the depiction of period blood to showing faeces in an ad for toilet paper. All complaints were dismissed.

Modibodi CEO and founder, Kristy Chong, said Facebook’s decision is disappointing, and out of line with the response from other platforms.

“Our aim for this film was to open people’s minds by taking the stigma out of what is a perfectly natural bodily function for women. It was not made to be deliberately sensational or provocative, but to show the very real and natural side of periods,” Chong said.

“We’ve used red to represent blood from day one and ‘The New Way to Period’ shows the real side of menstruation and that there are better options available than eco-damaging disposable pads, liners and tampons.

“It’s the twenty-first century and it’s disappointing Facebook doesn’t want to normalise the conversation around menstruation. We also note that other media platforms have not taken the same direction as Facebook.”

Another Modibodi ad was also disallowed for a script which said: “Did you ever have to do the under-desk pass – you know, when asking a school friend if they had something for you when your period came unexpectedly? Feels embarrassing even now, doesn’t it?”

Mumbrella understands Facebook advised Modibodi to alter that ad to use language central to the product, because the script in its current form also breached the ‘personal attributes’ policy.

‘The new way to period’ launched on 16 September across subscription TV, connected TV, digital and out of home media.

In response to Mumbrella’s request, Ad Standards revealed that, so far, the ad has received less than 30 complaints from its appearances on pay TV and TV on demand. The community panel case is currently in progress, and Ad Standards reported that cases take 42 days on average to turnaround.

“We have not received complaints about the ad on Facebook or Youtube,” the Ad Standards spokesperson said.

Modibodi confirmed to Mumbrella that the ad has been approved by Free TV’s advertising advisory ClearAds, ahead of its upcoming run on free-to-air TV.

The brand also reported that the ad was temporarily banned by Youtube before being reinstalled following a review. Mumbrella has contacted Youtube for comment on its decision and review processes.

‘The new way to period’ was created by Emotive.

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