Earlier this month, Bayer went live with its Seeing Red campaign, but the pharma giant’s promotional effort for Mirena, an IUD approved for the treatment of heavy menstrual bleeding (HMB), has influences that date back decades.

John Berrios, SVP and general manager of women’s healthcare U.S. at Bayer Pharmaceuticals, goes deep into the healthcare marketing archives when he discusses the context for Seeing Red. 

Nearly 100 years ago, Modess was founded and sold its sanitary napkins in a plain box in order “to save embarrassment,” which became part of the company’s tagline in the 1950s. 

Well aware of the taboo that has long clouded conversations around menstrual products, Berrios sees a throughline to a certain reluctance that continues to this day. 

“As I started doing research, it’s amazing that the taboo around periods has been there since ancient cultures,” he says. “It has lasted through history and time.”

For Berrios, that stigma means that many women who suffer from HMB may not raise the subject with friends, family, or doctors and instead “suffer in silence.” However, it’s critical to note that these women are not alone: an estimated one in three women who are menstruating experience heavy periods.

As opposed to four to five days for more typical periods, HMB can last more than seven days and involve a loss of twice as much blood, (four to six tablespoons as opposed to two to three). 

By making a bold statement, skipping the euphemisms and a demure voice in favor of frank talk, the Seeing Red campaign attempts to encourage discussions of HMB. It’s a shift in attitude that benefited another Bayer brand, Midol. The No Apologies, Period campaign won several MM+M Awards last year and Berrios cites those honors as inspiration for Seeing Red during our conversation. 

“As a company, we are dedicated to providing this information and getting out there to normalize these conversations,” Berrios adds. 

Seeing Red is a national, multi-channel media effort with a commercial at its center. The ad includes information on HMB and features portrayals of women continuing to lead active and full lives despite it—all tied together by a bright red motif as a common thread. 

This can all be seen on the Mirena website where other assets that Berrios calls out include a section detailing myths and facts about HMB, an attempt to provide crucial information in a more interactive way and a guide to questions to ask healthcare professionals (HCP) about Mirena, which builds on the campaign’s goal of facilitating conversations about HMB. 

“Many women [who experience HMB} are planning their lives around when they have their menses,” Dr. Yesmean Wahdan, VP US Medical Affairs, Women’s Healthcare at Bayer Pharmaceuticals says. “What we’re aiming to do here is flip the script. Change what has been historically a topic that no one wants to talk about and bring it up to the forefront.”

Beyond the spot and the website, Seeing Red is also partnering with a number of influencers—HCPs as well as lifestyle and travel content creators on Instagram and TikTok—to expand the campaign’s reach. There is also a custom content collaboration with Betches Media to promote content on their social channels as well as their podcast.

The Seeing Red campaign, launched to coincide with Women’s Health Care Month in May, is being rolled out at a time when there has been a broader drop in women visiting their OBGYNs, according to Wahdan.

“We’ve seen OBGYN visits decline over the past two to three years by 17 to 20%,

especially in younger age groups,” she explains. “That leads to not only a decline in opportunities to address unmet needs like those in the HIV space or the heavy period space, but also a decline in preventative care and screenings. The catalyst here is to help women take the reins back and reprioritize education and awareness and also self-care.” 

Wahdan adds that “no healthcare topic should ever be taboo,” noting that Bayer wants women to live their best lives as well as seek out the information and options that will help them do so.