The good oil

Article by Rachel Schutze /
The Geelong Advertiser /
September 3, 2019 /
Original unavailable /

IT’S Sunday night. We have made it through the weekend of kids sport, sport and more sport. We are sitting on the couch, it is cold outside and the children have brought their doonas onto the couch to make it more snuggly.

Survivor is on and the season is heating up. As it seems are the TV ads that accompany it.

In the last little while on our TV screens in between immunity challenges on Survivor, we have been educated about the heat plaguing men’s testicles in what the Bonds underwear company have described as a “mandemic”.

Their new campaign for Bonds X-temp underwear has been heralded as “hilarious”. Michelle Walsh, creative director at Leo Burnett who created the campaign says: “Every bloke gets hot, sweaty balls (so I’m told) but they’ll rarely talk about it, let alone do something about it.

“So, this was a fun, playful way of getting them to consider how they treat their precious cargo and prove to them that the right jocks can make all the difference.” The campaign is controversial. It is based on research that lowering the temperature of men’s testicles is better for men’s testicular health. The images used include giant iron balls searing with heat before being dipped into cooling water, a pair of meatballs being grilled on a barbecue and a glowing pair of meteorites. The imagery tells the story.

Another campaign hit our screens last Sunday night during Survivor. It is the Libra #bloodnormal campaign.

“The #bloodnormal campaign feature the experience of periods and period blood openly and honestly in an attempt to normalise ­periods in mainstream culture” says the Libra spokesperson about the campaign. The campaign tag­line reads: “Periods are normal. Showing them should be too.” Of real interest is some of the statistics that accompany the campaign. Caitlin Patterson, executive general manager of Asaleo Care’s retail business unit, said its research shows that eight of 10 women go to great lengths to hide the fact that they have their period. For girls in high school, she said, “their shame of menstruation is so bad that almost 70 per cent would rather fail a class subject than have their peers know they were on their period”. Wow!

Dr Lauren Rosewarne, senior lecturer in the School of Social and Political Sciences at the University of Melbourne, was quoted in a recent article in response to the Libra campaign research saying: “Perhaps that’s because periods aren’t something we commonly see on TV, in movies or on Instagram — if young girls are brought up to hide their period, then they will continue to feel and believe it’s something shameful, embarrassing and needing to be hidden.” The Libra campaign we see here is an Australian version of an international campaign that received the Glass: The Lion for Change award at Cannes. This award is a prestigious award that, according to the website, “celebrates culture-shifting creativity. Entries will need to demonstrate ideas intended to change the world; that is, work which sets out to positively impact ingrained gender inequality, imbalance or injustice”.

The internet has reacted to the two ads very differently. The Bonds X-temp ads are seen as “hilarious”. They have succeeded in encouraging us to buy those undies and look after men’s health in the process. In short they feel to me like they have given us a message about men’s health with a ‘spoonful of sugar’ in the form of Australian humour and it has gone down a treat.

The reaction to the Libra ads is mixed. There are a lot of comments indicating people feel very uncomfortable about the ad. Some have felt assaulted by the reality of periods. Others have rejoiced in the fact that it is causing discussion and allowing periods to be what they are; normal, real, messy and inconvenient.

Instead of a ‘spoonful of sugar’ in the form of Aussie humour to help the medicine go down, Libra has served us the ad with a spoonful of cod liver oil as my Poppy used to do when we stayed on holidays as young children. He would say to us, as we reluctantly swallowed the spoonful, “it may not taste good but it sure is good for you”.

The ad is controversial, deliberately so. However, if it assists in removing shame and normalising the experience of periods in modern society maybe, just like Poppy’s spoonful of cod liver oil, the ads are good for us after all. Rachel Schutze is a principal lawyer at Gordon Legal, wife and mother of three.