A feminine hygiene brand known for its boffo advertising is back with an anatomically-explicit ad campaign that’s generating tons of publicity but also charges of racism.
Summer’s Eve, a line of products made by Fleet Laboratories that includes a cleansing wash (which “cleanses away odor-causing bacteria from the external vaginal area”), wipes, deodorant spray, body powder and bath and shower gel, rolled out digital work urging women to “ID the V” and to use the phrase “That’s vaginal,” the way Bill and Ted did “Excellent.” The campaign, by Dallas-based indie agency The Richards Group, also features a new brand website and a TV ad, dubbed “The V,” that salutes the vagina’s role in history in humorously melodramatic fashion. New packaging and cinema ads are part of the effort.
But a series of digital video shorts featuring talking hands standing in for vaginas is drawing accusations of racial insensitivity, thanks to voiceovers that flirt with ethnic stereotyping.
Bloggers gave the ads huge play – while skewering them. ColorLines called the spots “clueless and racially coded,” while Gawker quipped “this racially stereotyped vagina hand campaign really steps it up to the next level, awfulness-wise.”
Fleet Laboratories marketing director for feminine care Angela Bryant was out for the week, according to her voicemail, and was not immediately available for comment. In a press release, Bryant said the campaign was about empowerment, celebrating women’s bodies and boosting their confidence.
“The whole category has been talking to women the same way since feminine hygiene products have been in the marketplace, and ironically, many media outlets won’t even allow the use of the word vagina in advertising,” said Bryant in the statement. “We are way past due for a change.”
Writing for ABCNews.com, Graham Stanley Advertising chief Larry D. Woodward said ads employing ethnic stereotyping frequently slip through the net because of the paucity of people of color in the upper echelons of ad agencies. As Woodward put it: “There are very few Black, Hispanic and Asian chief creative officers to say: ‘Hell, no!’”
Last year, the brand arched eyebrows with a print ad suggesting “showering with Summer’s Eve feminine wash” as a means of preparing to ask the boss for a raise.