Libra’s #bloodnormal campaign becomes most-complained-about ad of the year, but Ad Standards dismisses claims it’s ‘offensive’ and ‘degrading’

Ad Standards has dismissed a variety of complaints regarding Libra’s #bloodnormal campaign which shows women going about their everyday lives whilst on their period and includes shots of a woman showering with blood running down her leg, a pad demonstration using red liquid, and a woman removing a pad.

Ad Standards confirmed to Mumbrella it had received over 600 complaints about the ad, putting it above the previous leader for the year – a trailer for the horror film Us – which had 244 complaints. The most-complained-about ad of 2018, a Sportsbet campaign featuring a man ‘man-scaping’, had 793 complaints.

The list of complaints against Libra largely revolved around the appropriateness of showing representations of menstrual blood during prime-time television hours, with many concerned about their children and teenage sons viewing the ad. Complainants used the terms ‘appalled’, ‘offensive’, ‘degrading’, ‘confronting’ and ‘explicit’ in their complaints.

One complainant also wrote: “Bodily secretions shouldn’t be shown on TV ads. I wouldn’t expect a toilet paper advertisement to show faeces on toilet paper, or an advertisement showing nasal secretions for tissues.”

Another complainant stated that the depiction of young women in the advertisement may appeal to paedophiles.

“It is also extremely offensive and inappropriate to show young teenage girls, between the ages of 12 to 16, getting their period, with blood dripping down their leg and of them peeling off a period stained pad from their underwear. It appeals to pedophiles to see young girls in this manner and is exposing to young females and extremely dangerous for young girls,” the complaint said.

Libra responded to the accusations of sexualisation directly, stating that “The images of the young women in the TVC are at all times tasteful and sensitive to the relevant audience”.

An image from the ads that replaces blue liquid with red to demonstrate absorbency

Libra also stated that the TV broadcast version of the ad received a ‘P’ rating from clear ads, which allows it to be broadcast at any time except during children’s and preschool programs. It also clarified that all of the talent in the advertisement were over the age of 18 at the time of filming.

Libra also defended the intention of the campaign to normalise discussion of periods in society, referencing research it conducted that found 3 in 4 Australian women say there is a stigma attached to having a period and almost 70% of young Australians would rather fail a subject or class than have their peers know they are on their period.

The company said of the ad: “The TVC is encouraging women, men, boys and girls (with guidance from their parents) to imagine a world where women and girls don’t have to hide anymore, where there is no shame attached to changing your pad in a toilet, asking for a pad at a dinner party or carrying your pad without hiding it.”

Issues addressed in the complaints that did not fall under the Ad Standards Code of Ethics included people’s aversion to blood, images of blood that made viewers uncomfortable under the guise of ‘bad taste’, and the hypothetical scenario of toilet paper ads showing images of faeces.

Within the Code of Ethics, the Ad Standards panel addressed complainants concerns that the ads were ‘offensive’ as menstruation is often an issue women like to keep private. The panel ruled that the topic of menstruation is not discriminatory or vilifying, and the women depicted in the advertisement appeared comfortable with themselves and their situation.

The panel noted that the fact there were people who felt the ad was ‘humiliating’ supported the #bloodnormal campaign’s concept that women are made to feel shame about the periods.

The panel was split in considering whether the ad was broadcast at an appropriate time. A minority of the panel considered that in prime time viewing in which a woman could be with her partner, children or parents, the ad could “cause embarrassment and emotional distress”, and proposed after the 8:30 pm time slot to be a more appropriate time for the campaign.

The majority of the panel reflected on Libra’s intention to normalise discussion about periods, and also noted that the average age of girls to begin menstruation was 12. It subsequently ruled that the ad “depicted material in a manner that is sensitive to the relevant broad audience which would likely include children”.

The Ad Standards panel also ruled that the depiction of blood was justifiable in the context of an advertisement for feminine hygiene products.

In addressing the complaints surrounding the sexualisation of the women in the ad, the panel noted that in the scene in the shower and bathroom, only bare legs were visible. Subsequently they ruled that “most members of the community would not consider the depiction of women’s legs in combination with menstruation to be sexually appealing”.

The panel stated that the opinion that the ad would be appealing to paedophiles “was highly unlikely to be shared by most members of the community”.

Subsequently, the panel found that the advertisement did not breach the Code of Ethics and dismissed the complaints.


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