Unlike many animate beings who do not menstruate, I've always been fascinated with the way marketers of feminine products have danced around the true utility of their wares. Has any other product category so consistently buried the lead ("tampons are wads of absorbent material, such as cotton, which are introduced into body cavities or canals to absorb secretions from menstruation, which is a perfectly normal body function") in a haze of soft-focus metaphor? Has any depicted as many heinous acts of slo-mo beach recreation (horseback riding, hand-holding, shoreline-toeing)? Has any outfitted as many of its ad actors in white linen blouses and slacks?
None of these observations are particularly novel; I'm sure there's a web site out there somewhere that chronicles every last detail-free, metaphor-rich tampon ad of the last 50 years. But it's worth revisiting the old clichés in the wake of this week's debut of "The Camp Gyno," which blows all other feminine-product marketing that came before it to bits. As a result, it's the only clip of the 300 or so I've looked at for this column that can be described as revolutionary.
Forget for a second that "The Camp Gyno," which seeks to introduce period product delivery service Hello Flo to the masses, toes the line between clever and bawdy with uncommon agility. Ignore that it tells more of a story in its 107 seconds than many sitcom episodes do in 22 minutes. Pay no mind to the cherubic, toothy tween camper who describes the monthly arrivals of tampons, pantyliners and tasty treats as "like Santa for your vagina." No, let's concentrate instead on two other aspects: how "Camp Gyno" redefines an entire product category's marketing and how its introduction of the Hello Flo brand is as devoid of subtlety and mystery as humanly possible.
To the first point, it took roughly six minutes for the video to go viral following its publication on Sunday; my wife reports that she'd been sent the clip 12 times by Wednesday morning. I understand that a delivery mechanism like Hello Flo won't appeal to every woman and that product purchase routines/rituals/whatever are often entrenched to the extent that change is a remote possibility at best. But can you imagine how the next feminine-product ad that features two women having a heart-to-heart in an outdoor setting while a soporific voiceover runs down product details will be received? It'll only be measurable in irrelevancies per minute.
As for the second, how refreshing is it that Hello Flo isn't going the handshake-and-nametag route to introduce itself? There's some unwritten rule that requires brands to assume a pose of humility and restraint in their first public utterings. By contrast, "The Camp Gyno" thumbs its nose at the existing model with its summer-camp-tampon-kingpin-gets-pushed aside plotline. It announces the brand's arrival not by delicately dipping a toe into the water, but instead by screaming "cannonball!" and drenching everyone in a 24-foot radius. That's ballsy. It might not work, but isn't it better than the alternative?
To me, then, "The Camp Gyno" ranks as the most memorably take-no-prisoners brand introduction in recent history. It immediately becomes the gold standard for any fledgling company or service that hopes to define and distinguish itself with one sweeping gesture. Given the paucity of product categories that haven't yet been defined, Hello Flo's wit-and-cliché-subversion recipe likely won't translate for too many other brands. But heavens, how interesting will it be to see a few brave ones try?