Opinion

So, Kotex. Chinese men are less reliable than a sanitary pad and women are just pussies?

Kotex China adWhy is it that ads for something as mundane as a sanitary napkin always seem to get under the skin?

Probably because brands can’t seem to be able to talk frankly and openly about something that is applied to a woman’s vagina, so they tend to resort to all sorts of bizarre metaphors that beat around the bush, as it were, raising some prickly issues along the way.

A new campaign from Kotex in China, press released today, pulls off a remarkable feat. In just two 30-second videos – which agency Ogilvy describes in a press release as “funny viral video ads” – Kotex has succeeded in demeaning men, women and the internet’s favourite animal at the same time.

Cats appear to come off worst in the first film, which the agency claims has been viewed around 1m times in two weeks on social networks in China (can that really be described as viral, in a country of 1.2 billion?) with waxing strips applied to their fur.

Ogilvy insists in the press release that “No animals were harmed in the making of this video”, although commenters on Kotex’s Weibo page are not convinced. One Weibo poster suggested that the video was promoting “torture”. Another that the ad could prompt the “wrong people” to do “bad things” to cats. “There was a Japanese video in which someone did a similar thing to a cat, awful!” wrote one. Another suggested: “I want to ask one of the creative team [who made the ad] to come out to let me wax his/her face.”

Curiously, there have been few comments that reflect the thinly veiled suggestion in the video that all women amount to is a vagina. Kotex, are women just pussy to you?

The second of the videos treads the well-trodden advertising path of giving men a kicking to supposedly make women feel empowered. “Why is it so hard for a woman to find an attractive, gentle yet tough and reliable man?” Kotex asks, before suggesting that Chinese men are less reliable than a sanitary napkin.

At a Mumbrella event in Australia not long ago, a panel of women that included magazine publishers, media agency bosses and marketers made an observation that Kimberly-Clark, the maker of Kotex, might consider taking on board: Ads that make men look dumb to make women look strong are patronising, not empowering.

Robin Hicks

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