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The #LastLonelyMenopause campaign brings the lived experience of the Menopause to life on UK TV screens for the first time.
The menopause renders women invisible. While the experience of the menopause differs vastly from woman to woman; the fact that this fundamental transformation in women’s lives is almost entirely invisible from mainstream cultural narratives is perhaps one universal experience.
It is an invisibility which is being successfully smashed by TENA and AMV BBDO, in a new campaign which serves as a cross-generational love letter to women’s ageing.
Backed by a £1m budget after successfully scooping Channel 4’s £1m Diversity in Advertising Award, the groundbreaking and unflinching campaign highlights women’s lived experience of the menopause through the story of the relationship between a mother and daughter.
The groundbreaking campaign is a response to Channel 4’s brief to the industry this year which asked for creative ideas to challenge ageism in advertising. A red thread exists between the lack of older talent in the industry (particularly acute is the lack of older women in creative departments) and the continued insistence that older women must either ‘fight the signs of ageing’ or be entirely invisible in advertising.
There is a clear market and cultural appetite for this work. According to data from the Women’s Worth study, conducted by UM London and Karen Fraser in 2018, almost half (46%) of women who are going through the menopause believe that women are not represented fairly by advertising, while 44% feel patronised by it.
Veriça Djurdjevic, Chief Revenue Officer at Channel 4 said: “AMV’s ad for TENA is a game-changing take on the narrative around the menopause. It perfectly fulfilled our Award brief to tackle ageism in advertising, using the central idea of talking about the menopause as a way of breaking the stigma & silence that exists around it despite the fact half the population will experience it!”
Directed by Shannon Murphy and produced by Lief, the film draws on the narrative that menopause is often spoken about as puberty in reverse – but where puberty gets its manifold tales of rage and becoming, the menopause is left behind. The film pours its storytelling into this gap with a fresh, emotionally raw depiction of the menopause as the second coming of age, rather than the full stop it is so often seen as.
Meta Redstedt, Global Master Brand & Communications Director at TENA, explained: “TENA is tackling female ageism, presenting a modern perspective on how midlife women live, championing their participation in society, and representation in culture. With this campaign we are so proud to create a new narrative for the menopause, hopefully starting important conversations in households across the country with Channel 4’s generous support.”
We hope this campaign can reinject humanity and beauty into the life stage, subvert damaging and demeaning stereotypes and help women feel better supported and less alone.Lauren Peters and Augustine Cerf, Creatives at AMV BBDO
The campaign serves as a compelling reminder of the power of authentic storytelling rooted in women’s lived experiences as opposed to stereotypes or fear-induced silence.
Lauren Peters and Augustine Cerf, Creatives at AMV BBDO, believe that people going through the menopause also deserve their emotionally nuanced coming of age stories of rage, confusion, liberation and becoming.
“We hope this campaign can reinject humanity and beauty into the life stage, subvert damaging and demeaning stereotypes and help women feel better supported and less alone. We also hope it’ll inspire people to talk to their own loved ones about the menopause – we all know someone going through it, yet we so rarely talk about it. It’s no wonder 1 in 3 feel alone during the menopause,” they explained.
TENA is tackling female ageism, presenting a modern perspective on how midlife women live, championing their participation in society, and representation in culture.Meta Redstedt, Global Master Brand & Communications Director at TENA
While ‘authenticity’ is the most over-utilised of marketing jargon the truth remains that historically brands have been uncomfortable about telling the truth about women’s bodies in advertising. AMV BBDO successfully smashed the unrealistic stereotype of the rollerblading woman inexplicably dressed in white shorts while on her period in its groundbreaking campaigns for Essity, now the agency is cutting a swathe through the squeamishness which surrounds the menopause.
By setting out to ‘tell the truth without sugar-coating or catastrophising’ the film shows the painfully relatable but rarely-seen-on-tv potential realities of the menopause. These include rogue beard hairs and night sweats to hormonal rage, lube-fuelled intimacy, and bladder weakness.
According to AMV BBDO the short film is one of the only ads about bladder weakness to actually show urine on screen. The team set out to “shows the challenges but also the triumphs of this life stage, combatting overwhelmingly negative stereotypes about the menopause that feed the fear of ageing.”
Film director Shannon Murphy said, "Menopause is a rite of passage yet still an obscure issue for many women, even today. I feel proud to have made something that could help women understand that it's not something to hide or fear. I'm also incredibly grateful for the talent and openness of the women involved in this project, their stories helped us shape such a necessary, honest, and emotional campaign”.
The campaign will be supported by a short-form series created by 4Studio Productions commissioned by Channel 4 Digital Commissioning Executive Joe Churchill, which will show older and younger people talking about the menopause and will launch on 9 May.
The award-winning TENA ad is part of a wider campaign devised by AMV BBDO and Ketchum PR that will utilise social content, influencer activity and the Infrequently Asked Questions guide, which will be available on the TENA Women website for download.
The guide encourages its readers to ask better - and more - questions about the menopause, and shows the value of doing so. The guide features words of wisdom gathered from women who have been through the menopause, as well as the advice and tips they wish to pass down to those yet to live through it.
Channel 4 is already a trailblazer in confronting taboos around the menopause. In 2019 it launched the UK media industry’s first dedicated Menopause Policy, and documentary Sex Myths and the Menopause with Davina McCall released last year has had more than 3 million views across linear and All 4. The broadcaster also has been a trailblazer in introducing its own menopause policy to better support employees.
The unflinching and honest portrayal of the menopause through an intergenerational lens successfully subverts the accepted narratives and stereotypes. Reflected in the campaign’s stated desire ‘to build support and solidarity between menopausal women and those around them’.
The emotional film ends as a new conversation begins; with the daughter asking her mother what the menopause is like. The hope is that viewers will take a moment to stop and ask the women in their lives a similar question and break the silence and stigma surrounding what is arguably life’s greatest privilege: the simple act of growing old.
In Notes to Self: Essays Emilie Pine writes eloquently about the silence surrounding women’s bodies daring to do what they are designed to do. She writes: “If getting my period was ‘becoming a woman’. I fear that the end of my period is the end of being a woman. As I think about the bleeding, and not bleeding, I realise that the cultural silence around female blood is part of a much wider problem - a total shitstorm - of how women’s bodies are imagined, aestheticised and policed to be a certain way. Any variations from the approved script render you invisible and silent.”
Thanks to Channel 4’s ongoing commitment to funding Diversity and Inclusion this campaign marks the beginning of a new chapter on a universal story that all too often still remains unsaid.
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