Why Whisper’s #OwnThose5Days Is Just Another Women Empowerment Themed Campaign

#OwnThose5Days is taking the brand story forward on an altogether new script; the central message isn't about busting period taboos anymore, but making menstruating women feel confident


Whisper is back to shouting out loud. This time it’s telling girls on their periods to #OwnThose5Days. Back in 2014, the sanitary napkin brand from P&G had created quite a furore on social media when it had launched ‘Touch the pickle’, a campaign designed to bust period taboos. Instead of highlighting its superior absorption qualities, Whisper took a giant leap of faith in its positioning.

For the uninitiated, in India, as well as the world, there still exist a number of ‘period taboos’ that are practiced unquestionably. Girls on their periods cannot enter temples or even touch any idol, they cannot enter the kitchen or touch the drinking water or water the plants, lest they pollute it with the negative energy emanating from them.

A weird taboo says ‘girls on periods should not touch pickle jars as that will contaminate the pickle!’ #TouchThePickle won the agency BBDO India a Grand Prix in the Glass Lions at the Cannes Lions 2015, for having the “power to effect true cultural change.”

This year, Whisper’s digging deeper to bring about a cultural change with its latest campaign - #OwnThose5Days. Apparently, the myth is that menstruating girls/women should take rest during those five days of the month, since they cannot perform to their full potential. The campaign is looking to break this myth with the help of real life women achievers, who share stories of themselves having been up and lively even during their periods.

#OwnThose5Days brings together badminton champion, Ashwini Ponnappa; youngest Indian female pilot, Ayesha Aziz; and youngest female chef, Anahita Dhondy in its ad film. As each of the girls go through their jobs, we hear the thoughts racing in their mind – Should I go back? 5 days off. Can I do it?

And then, all self doubts are laid to rest. Their confidence gets the better of them and they rise above their doubts, concerns and lack of confidence to go on to perform at their jobs.

At the end of the video, these young women tell viewers to join in too; they invite them to share their own stories of how they #OwnThose5Days. Women can write their story on a placard and share a selfie holding it on the social media pages of the brand. Ashwini won a tournament, Ayesha flew 30 hours, while Anahita cooked up a 7-course meal, while they were on their periods.

Whisper had launched the New Whisper Ultra this year, designed to give five times better protection than regular pads. Interestingly, Actor Parineeti Chopra along with Mandira Bedi had unveiled the new product by tearing open a giant newspaper, busting the prevailing myth about sanitary napkins requiring to be hidden from public view with newspaper wrapping. The launch also saw a gynaecologist Dr. Nandita Palshetkar speaking about the product and answering queries about periods.

Additionally, a blogger meet was hosted for some of the influential beauty and fashion bloggers who were given a product demonstration by P&G’s R&D Expert, after some fun stories by Kalki Koechlin and an entertaining stand up comedy by Aditi Mittal. The idea was to build conversations around prevalent period taboos in society, as well as have bloggers create awareness about the new product, and brand content for search engines.

The social media properties of the brand are an array of selfie stories. Girls are holding placards narrating how they #OwnThose5Days.

Empowering. Story-driven. Real life achievers.

Periods is one of the most natural cyclic phenomenon occurring in women’s bodies, yet it is misunderstood. A report even highlighted the plight of a set of rural women in India: they thought they had a serious ailment and would die soon from all the bleeding. Menstruating women and girls are temporarily secluded too in many cultures of the world, including India. There are several regressive customs for menstruating women. Hence, a true cultural change could be brought about only if Whisper gets to the core of the problem, partners with organizations that create awareness and impart scientific information on periods, both in urban and rural societies.

Whisper is in the business of busting period taboos in its advertising campaigns, apparently. #TouchThePickle became an empowering message to the brand’s target audience, as well as an award winning brand campaign. In comparison, #OwnThose5Days is taking the story forward on an altogether new script. The brand’s central message isn’t about busting period taboos, but making menstruating women feel confident and empowered enough to perform to their optimum.

Women on periods do feel discomfort and that’s not a taboo; it’s a normal change in the body. And there is a significant percent of women who suffer from painful periods. #OwnThose5Days, hence could be misleading as it does not sensitize society towards this largely ignored medical condition.

The selfie-driven stories and blogger outreach might make for a buzzy campaign on digital but ‘own those 5 days’ is just another women-empowerment themed campaign  featuring real women achievers.