BLOODY BIG BLOG.

We need to be better at representing women in marketing - period

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Last week, the Scottish Government made a historic move, pledging £5m to ensure that free period products will be available to pupils and students across all schools, colleges and universities in Scotland.

There’s been widespread support for this move but, alas, with a heavy uterus I can also report plenty of push back from people who a) want to know why the men folk don’t get free razors b) simply don’t believe that there are women who can’t afford period products c) think this money should tackle something else.

Here’s what I think about those opinions. There’re not simply sparked by a new policy decision. In large part, they’ve come about because women have been misrepresented for far too long. And the marketing industry has played its part in helping to create this bloody big issue.

Women will have around 450 periods in a lifetime. I’m on roughly number 302 right now. And as I type, I’m tanked up on ibuprofen and chocolate because menstruation also has multiple problematic side hustles; cramps, PMS, bloating, bleed-throughs, insomnia, cravings. But there’s one period problem I’m lucky not to face – and that’s period poverty.

Across the UK, one in 10 women have gone without menstrual products because they couldn’t afford them. In Scotland, it’s one in five. What does this mean in reality? As demonstrated brilliantly in an advert by our friends, Hey Girls last month, it means women use alternative ‘solutions’, including newspapers, rags and socks. Ever chosen to stuff any of those down your pants, then roller-skate down the beach, Bodyform-style? Thought not.

Their use leads to embarrassment, staining, smell, sometimes infection, and even truancy - 49% of girls who are affected skip school. They’re missing education and opportunity over something as simple as a tampon, a pad or a mooncup. Boys aren’t bunking off because of blunt razors. Anyone who thinks they are, needs to go straight in the bin – and take the newspapers, rags and socks along with them.

“Period Poverty is a nonsense. Makes you wonder how women managed throughout time until tampons were invented,” commented one male, middle-age social media user when the Scottish Government made their announcement. Beyond this charming chap’s obvious lack of experience (and empathy), let’s take a moment to acknowledge the scepticism that surrounds period poverty. It exists because, for a long time, women (and our basic biological functions) haven’t been represented honestly or openly. Menstrual products have been positioned as ‘sanitary wear’; our blood’s been shown as blue, bleach-like fluid. Periods have been made to feel like a dirty little secret for too long.

That’s why we started the Bloody Big Brunch – a social good campaign that was cooked up by our agency to bring periods to the mainstream, help remove their stigma and make a difference to period poverty.

The idea is simple. Take something that’s a weekend luxury (brunch) and use it to highlight what should be a basic essential (period products). We hold weekend events throughout the country, pouring Bloody Marys for all to enjoy – but there’s one string attached. And it’s firmly at the end of a tampon.

Our cocktails are paid for with period products, which are then distributed to women in need, almost 4,000 so far. Another positive consequence of the Bloody Big Brunch though, is the creation of a feel-good, inclusive space where people feel comfortable to ask about the reality of periods, without being made to feel daft. One guy who came along wondered whether you ‘do your period’ in one go when you go to the toilet (spoiler alert - we don’t).

We’ve generated amazing media coverage, lots of social noise and joined up with the very best of partners – the excellent social enterprise, Hey Girls (as mentioned earlier), Smirnoff, without whom we couldn’t raise any vodka-filled glasses to the cause, and the marvellous Stacey Solomon, our first official ambassador, who will be joining us at our next event in Manchester on 8th September.

Their support – and the overwhelming engagement we’ve had from the public – shows that the Bloody Big Brunch isn’t niche, it isn’t just for us committed feminists. It demonstrates that there’s a wide appetite for women-centred marketing that’s loud, proud and unafraid to show things as they really are.

It also shows that we as marketeers have an opportunity to air our laundry (complete with bloody bed linen) and move the conversation on. There’s been a huge awakening amongst women, particularly in the last eighteen months, and representation has never mattered more. Women are sick of being patronised – or encouraged to stay quiet.

So, if women are important to you and your brand (and they will be, given they make or influence almost all household buying decisions) then it’s time to ask yourself whether you’re doing enough to include how we really look, what we really say or what we really care about in your campaigns. Can you help to solve the problem of there being twice as many male characters in adverts than female? Or the fact that one in ten female characters are shown in sexually revealing clothing, which is six times more than men? Can you show different body types? Different ethnicities? Or can you bake into your brand a purpose that matters to women, like sexual harassment, building the confidence of young women, post-natal depression, supporting working mums or encouraging female entrepreneurs?

This isn’t just nice stuff to do. It’s one of the few ways left to build and nurture loyalty. People gravitate towards representations they can connect with. And that means being real, nothing sanitised, no backwards-looking cliches. Bottom-line? Inclusive, honest brands are also able to benefit their bottom-line. Ask Fenty, ask Diageo, ask Nike.

At WIre , we’ve a diversity board that keeps these conversations front-of-mind in all we do. Because we believe that no brand can afford to ignore consumer’s changing expectations of us. And because we believe it can make a real difference to world.

That’s why we’re proud to raise a Bloody Mary to the Scottish Government – and why we’ll keep putting Bloody Big Brunches on the table until the rest of the UK follows their lead in making period products – and the conversation surrounding periods – open to all.

Pam Scobbie is a director at Wire, an agency that builds great ideas and puts them in the right places. The next Bloody Big Brunch takes place Saturday 8 September at TriBeCa, 50 Sackville Street, in Manchester.

Why we’re giving away free Bloody Marys…with one string attached

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Periods. Some people still find them a bit awkward, don’t they? Mention your ‘monthlies’ to a room full of people and you’re sure to spot some blushes.

Like the time my best pal arrived at a restaurant and launched into a detailed story about her heavy flow…only to spot a waiter behind her who’d heard everything and was DYING (seriously, we’re talking Warren Beatty at the Oscars levels of cringe).

 Embarrassed waiters be like…

Embarrassed waiters be like…

But surely there should be only one thing turning red when you’re on your dabs? And it’s not your cheeks.

Because periods are everywhere. Around 800 million people around the world are having one right now. Women will have around 450 of them in our lifetimes. Unlucky for us, they don’t come alone.

Cramps, PMS, bloating, bleed-throughs, insomnia, cravings…and plenty worse besides. I’ve had painful endometriosis since I was a teenager and so I speak from experience in saying that when Aunt Flo visits, she comes with baggage.

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But there’s one period problem that no woman should have to endure. And that’s #periodpoverty.

What is period poverty?

Earlier this month, a Women for Independence survey was released, which showed that nearly one in five women have had to go without period products because they can’t afford them. One in ten have been forced to prioritise other essential household items, like food.

When women can’t afford to buy sanitary products, then rags, toilet paper or charity donations become the alternative. And that’s no choice at all — particularly when you can’t control whether your body bleeds or not.

Some might scoff at the problem, wondering “how difficult can it be to spend a few pounds every month?”. To someone on a low-income, £13 a month is not cheap. The financial — and emotional — cost of having to decide whether to feed your family or buy tampons is a burden no-one should have to bear.

Anyone watched I, Daniel Blake and cried your eyes out? The fact is, this isn’t fiction.

Time to (wo)man up

With this in mind and International Women’s Day coming up, we were chatting in the office about the momentum that’s slowly starting to gather behind the cause. Some of the team were really knowledgeable about the problem. Others — educated, aware, politically-active — couldn’t believe it was a thing.

It made me wonder; how could we put a bigger spotlight on period poverty? So, as an agency, we’ve come together to do what we do best. That’s to get people talking.

Introducing the Bloody Big Brunch, an event serving up free Bloody Marys to all who come along.

There’s just one string attached…and it comes at the end of a tampon.

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An unusual drinks bill for an all-too-common problem

Everyone who takes part needs to bring sanitary products to get their hands on the classic brunch staple. All tampons and pads received will go to the Trussell Trust, a charity organisation who give emergency support to people in crisis. We’ll also be gathering signatures to petition the government for change.

People can come along to the first event in Glasgow on 10th March — or hold their own brunch event at home for family and friends. By raising a glass to periods everywhere, our aim is to help end discrimination against menstruation.

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Where next?

We won’t stop there though. We’ll tour the rest of the UK in 2018, popping up in cities nationwide at ‘that time of the month’ to bring the Bloody Big Brunch to life elsewhere. Everyone’s welcome

 Our Brilliant Team

Our Brilliant Team

 Me and Lee (we run WIRE) and our alter-ego donkeys

Me and Lee (we run WIRE) and our alter-ego donkeys

As for WIRE, we’ve restructured our agency this year to make sure that everyone has 10% of their time set aside to work on campaigns for social change that are close to our hearts. This is just the first initiative — and from idea to activation, we’ve had less than 20 days to make this happen. Our team, made up of men and women, have worked full-on and have been passionate and energetic about making it a success.

Like me, they’re hoping we can play our part in making sure that periods no longer cramp anyone’s style.

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Join the first Big Bloody Brunch event in Glasgow on 10th March — or hold your own brunch event at home for family and friends — to help end discrimination against menstruation. Get involved here and share your period stories here#freeperiods

And please recommend ONLY if you know someone who has ever had a period 😀

What's Next for Bloody Big Brunch?

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After successful events in Glasgow and London we are taking the Bloody Big Brunch to Manchester.

 

We are currently looking at August for the Manchester event but there is the potential of it being pushed back to September.

 

The event in Manchester will follow the same idea as the previous events and we are looking to organise a venue, entertainment and a potential ambassador for the brunch.

 

Springboarding from the Manchester event we will announce the plans for our national event. A day where we encourage people to hold their own brunch at home with friends and family and collect donations.

 

Links

 

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/BloodyBigBrunch/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/BloodyBigBrunch

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/bloodybigbrunch/

 #BloodyBigBrunch

An interview on period poverty

 
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Can you recall the first time you become acutely aware of period poverty? Can you tell me a bit about it? 

-          In our agency there’s been varying degrees of knowledge and understanding when it comes to period poverty

-          I’m sure I saw something when I was at high school in Boots in Stirling where boxes of tampons where in clear perspex locked boxes which I remember thinking was pretty strange at the time

-          However, it wasn’t until we read the hard stats in a fairly recent The Guardian article (back in February) that it jolted us into action

-          The report by Women for Independence, a grass roots organisation, released one of the most detailed surveys of its kinds and reviewed the effects of period poverty in Scotland, and revealing the real horrors of the injustice

-          Nearly one in five women in Scotland has experienced period poverty and were desperately resorting to using old clothes or newspapers, when they cannot afford sanitary protection.

Why is campaigning and raising awareness of period poverty important to you?

-          I’ve always had a strong moral compass, and have volunteered and mentored women throughout my life

-          I used to work on behaviour change campaigns for the government and have always been passionate about making a difference

-          However, getting into campaigning has been one of the most rewarding things I’ve done as you are able to see tangible results and where you’ve directly made that impact and also pretty quickly

-          There’s also a really strong sense of community, with fellow campaigners showing support for each other

-          I currently work at a creative marketing agency WIRE, we are based in Scotland and it’s headed up by two incredible women Pam and Lee who are passionate about equality and bringing about positive change

-          I think since WIRE started they had a vision that the agency would campaign for things we believe in and luckily we’ve got to that point where we can invest our time and energy into campaigning

-          We set 10% of agency time aside to work on campaigns for social change and with the Bloody Big Brunch we’ve been able to combine our creativity and social consciousness to create a concept that will get people talking, bring people together and break down the taboos around periods

-          So, we work on the Bloody Big Brunch during our agency time but also in our own time and using our own funds

-          Although we recently secured Smirnoff as our brilliant Bloody Mary sponsor so we’re not having to pay for the vodka ourselves any more

Why did we decide to tackle period poverty though?

-          Well we believe being able to afford/ have sanitary products shouldn’t be a luxury

-          Period poverty is so specifically an injustice levied at women

-          Pads and tampons are both taxed as luxury, non-essential items by 5% – you are, quite literally punished for being a women

-          Period poverty also affects women from all different backgrounds from homeless women, refugees, asylum seekers, those for low income backgrounds, school girls and skint students

-          There’s also so much shame attached to talking about periods so we want to break the taboos around that

-          If we can feel positive about our periods and celebrate them rather than hiding away from them it will help a lot of other issues which women face   

-          Periods shouldn’t be something to be embarrassed about, it’s one of the greatest most natural gifts we have as human beings

Can you share any stats on how many people in the UK are affected by the issue? How does this impact people in the short term and long term?

-          Plan UK research identified 1 in 10 young women+ school girls are suffering from period poverty and resort to using rags, newspapers, old socks, double-up pants affected in the UK

-          Almost 138,000 girls in the UK have missed school in the last year because they couldn’t afford sanitary products (OnePoll Research March 2018, Always)

-          This report of 500 girls aged 10 to 18, which shows seven per cent have been forced to skip school during their ‘time of the month.’

-          Of these girls, the average has missed five days of school during the last year – which made them feel embarrassed and ashamed.

-          In an attempt to avoid such a situation, six per cent of parents admit they have been so desperate to equip their daughter with sanitary protection they have resorted to stealing on the occasions they couldn’t afford to buy them.

-          While more than a fifth of mums or dads have gone without something themselves so they had enough money to meet their daughter’s needs. The studies among girls and parents were carried out by OnePoll.com

-          Plan UK research - One in seven girls (14%) have had to ask to borrow a sanitary product from a friend

-          More than one in ten girls (12%) have had to improvise a sanitary product

-          Nearly half (48 per cent) of girls aged 1421 in the UK are embarrassed by their periods

-          One in seven (14 per cent) girls admitted that they did not know what was happening when they started their period and more than a quarter (26 per cent) reporting that they did not know what to do when they started their period

-          Almost three quarters (71%) of girls admitted that they have felt embarrassed buying sanitary products

-          Scotland

-          I’m not sure if it’s as clear cut as short and longer impacts, what happens immediately will affect what happens in the future

-          So in the short term – girls are missing school which will influence their performance long term, there is a lot of shame attached around periods and this is intensified when we bring period poverty into the equation

-          Long term – stigma around periods will also affect self-esteem in the long run and how women see themselves and how worthy they consider they are, there’s also a risk of health conditions, from toxic shock syndrome to bacterial infections from not changing your pads, and it’s hard to digest the long-term effects of using newspapers

Do you think enough is being done to tackle period poverty by those in power? If not, what should be done, in your opinion?

-          Period poverty is a global issue and it is now starting to grab the attention of those in power and we’re beginning to see changes happen

-          But there is still a very long way to go

-          The Major of London just announced he is 'calling on the Government to take urgent action and end period poverty', by announcing a partnership with @RedBoxProject to supply menstrual products to London schools which is fantastic

-          We’ve seen some real change happening in Scotland and Monica Lennon’s bill was passed in parliament and is working towards everyone who menstruates to have access to sanitary products for free – a universal right of access, one of the first in the world with a specific focus on schools, colleges and universities to provide these products in toilets

-          A similar introduction to the C card scheme which already is in place in some health boards offering free condoms, which will normalise access to sanitary products

-          Wales are – believe there’s been a £1m fund from the government to tackle the issue (March) and they are starting to make progress at a local level

-          There is loads of good work happening in North Ireland by community groups such as The Homeless Period Belfast and we’re beginning to see more coverage media and press wise there  

-          However sadly the UK / Tory government is deaf to this issue

-          We want to see the tax removed on sanitary products

-          We want to see universal provision for everyone who menstruates in the UK, like what Monica Lennon’s bill is suggesting in Scotland

What does the Bloody Big Brunch set out to achieve? What has it achieved so far?

-          There is so much brilliant work already happening out there and we see our role as follows:  supporting the period positive and period poverty campaigners, bringing everyone together, to raise awareness and drive donations and bring about real change to the law and people’s perceptions of periods

-          The Bloody Big Brunch is still very much in its infancy however at our launch event in Glasgow we collected over 1000 items which we donated to the Trussell Trust

-          We’re now heading to London on Saturday 2 June

-          Manchester in August, then Edinburgh and we’re working towards a National Day in September where everyone hosts their own brunch at home

-          Our ultimate aim is to empower people to host their own brunches at home or work to drive donations

What role have you played in getting it off the ground? 

-          I’m part of the team of organisers – responsible for partners such as Bloody Good Period, Red Box & sponsors Smirnoff. I also look after the publicity and twitter

Period poverty is obviously something that a lot of women can get behind and support, but how do you plan on getting more men involved and supporting? What message do you have for the men reading this piece? 

-          Talking about periods is key for both men and women

-          Everyone is welcome to our brunches and we’ve seen how talking has really benefited and shifted perceptions of the men in our office

-          We’ve got about a 70-30 split in our office and the guys have really got behind the Bloody Big Brunch

-          At first they felt awkward and didn’t really know how to respond, in fairness some of the girls felt a bit embarrassed discussing it all

-          But the more we talked the easier and more natural it was, let it flow, let it flow

-          It’s almost like a bit of a microcosm here of what could happen outside our walls

-          The more the guys got involved with BBB they told us how good it felt and it really normalised everything

-          So we’d say come to our brunches, speak to your sisters, girlfriends, female friends, mums, aunties

-          Talking really is the simpliest way to break down taboos

-          Get behind the campaign

-          Buy from Hey Girls

1.       Sign a petition to urge the UK government to provide free sanitary products for schoolgirls from low income families - see Amika George’s #freeperiods

2.       Time is so valuable, donate yours and volunteer with initiatives like the Red Box Project or Bloody Good Period

3.       If you menstruate, buy your products from Hey Girls, for every pack you buy they donate one to someone affected by period poverty

4.       Come to a Bloody Big Brunch and find out more or host your own!

5.       Talk about your periods, so much of these issues stem from the shame attached to discussing menstruation

Host Your Own Brunch

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How can other women (and men!) go about hosting their own brunches? 

Right now, all you need to do is invite your friends over for brunch, ensure menstruation is on the menu for discussion and serve up Bloody Marys, with one string attached – everyone has to pay for their drinks with a packet of period products!  Then you can donate these to an array of wonderful organisations to reach individuals and families in need. We recommend checking out Bloody Good Period, Red Box Project and the Trussell Trust.

Also watch this space because in June at our Bloody Big Brunch London event, we’re going to announce a nationwide call to host your own brunch on one dedicated national Bloody Big Brunch day! Find us on the usual channels @BloodyBigBrunch to find out more

What else can be done to help end period poverty - especially for those who aren't in a position to make monetary donations? 

Whatever your income there is a whole host of ways you can get involved and help eradicate period poverty.

 

1.       Sign a petition to urge the UK government to provide free sanitary products for schoolgirls from low income families - see Amika George’s #freeperiods

2.       Time is so valuable, donate yours and volunteer with initiatives like the Red Box Project or Bloody Good Period

3.       If you menstruate, buy your products from Hey Girls, for every pack you buy they donate one to someone affected by period poverty

4.       Come to a Bloody Big Brunch and find out more or host your own!

5.       Talk about your periods, so much of these issues stem from the shame attached to discussing menstruation