May 27, 2024

Advertising: A Younger Group for Feminine Products

The site,, urges mothers to pick a date soon to explain menstruation, and clicking on “get the right products” takes mothers to a page promoting the brand’s newest offering: U by Kotex Tween.

In what the brand says is an industry first, the pads are designed specifically for 8- to 12-year-olds and are 18 percent shorter and narrower than other Kotex pads. Sold in glittery boxes decorated with hearts, stars and swirls (which are also printed on the pads themselves), the products would look at home on the set of “Hannah Montana,” the Disney Channel show that starred the actress Miley Cyrus.

“These pads are designed to fit smaller girls’ body size, with bold and glittery packages” that also appeal to them, said Melissa Sexton, a marketing director in the adult feminine care division at Kimberly-Clark, which owns the brand.

On the site, Dr. Lissa Rankin, a gynecologist and author of “What’s Up Down There?: Questions You’d Only Ask Your Gynecologist if She Was Your Best Friend,” is featured in a video encouraging mothers.

“A lot of moms have a hard time even talking to their own peers about this issue and have to get over their own embarrassment so they can have a candid, fun and supportive conversation with their daughters,” Dr. Rankin said in a phone interview.

On another area of the site, intended for prospective users,, visitors share videos and written accounts of their first periods. One out of three females has no idea what is happening when her first period arrives, while four out of five mothers feel ill-prepared to educate their daughters about menstruation, according to surveys commissioned by Kotex.

The sites for both mothers and their daughters are by Organic, part of the Omnicom Group.


Susan Kim, co-author of “Flow: The Cultural Story of Menstruation,” was initially startled by the introduction of U by Kotex Tween.

“What punched me in the gut is that the age of menarche had dropped so precipitously,” said Ms. Kim, using the term for first menstruation. “My first reaction was, ‘Oh my gosh, a period kit for an 8-year-old — eek!’ ”

But she does not dispute the need for products that cater to girls that young, and lauded the brand’s approach.

“It was not that long ago that girls used to pass around the Judy Blume book, ‘Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret,’ ” because it addressed stigmatized topics including menstruation, Ms. Kim said. “It was such contraband material, so I liked that on the preteen site that it very much was a place for girls to share, with firsthand testimony.”

From 1920 to 1984, the average age of menarche dropped from 13.3 to 12.4, according to a 2007 article in the Journal of Adolescent Health. A study published in Pediatrics last year found that in the United States, 15 percent of American girls begin puberty by age 7.

The U by Kotex line was introduced in 2010 with a marketing campaign aimed at women 14 to 22 that skewers feminine care companies, including Kotex itself, for the typically euphemistic tone and dainty tropes of their ads.

“The ads on TV are really helpful because they use that blue liquid,” says a woman in her early 20s in the first U by Kotex commercial, as blue liquid is poured on a pad. “And I’m like, ‘Oh, that’s what’s supposed to happen.’ ”

The commercial, by JWT, which is a part of WPP, has been viewed more than 1.2 million times on YouTube.

With the motto “Break the Cycle,” the brand uses humor to challenge the stigma around menstrual products in Web-only videos, also by Organic, including one in which a woman standing with her bike outside a drugstore asks men to go in and buy her tampons because she forgot her bike lock. While some offer to watch her bike, none will make the purchase.

Over the 52 weeks that ended March 20, the share of all Kotex products in the $634 million tampon category increased 4.1 points, for a 15.9 percent share, while in the $893 million sanitary napkins and liners segment, the brand increased 1.7 points, for a 19.4 percent share, according to Symphony/IRI Group, a market data firm whose totals do not include Wal-Mart.

U by Kotex spent $23.2 million on advertising in 2010, eclipsing the $4.1 million Kimberly-Clark spent on the older Kotex brand, according to the Kantar Media Unit of WPP. Tampax, by Procter Gamble, which dominates the tampon segment with a 47.2 percent share, spent $49.9 million.


U by Kotex recently began addressing the look of feminine care products, which have traditionally been plain white, by printing various designs on pads. With what the brand calls a “limited-edition designer series,” prints like “poptimistic” and “punk glam,” will be introduced for U by Kotex products in July.

Meanwhile, an online pad design contest, Ban the Bland, began April 4 and has drawn more than 1,600 submissions. Three contestants with the most online votes will be flown in September to New York, where they will collaborate with Patricia Field, the costume designer for “Sex and the City.”

“Why should we settle for feminine care being dull and white and boring?” said Ms. Sexton about the designs on both the U by Kotex and U by Kotex Tween pads. “Every day when we get dressed, we have a choice of what we wear, and when we have our periods we should still have that choice.”

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