Seven of 10 Indian mothers don’t know the biology behind periods and consider it ‘dirty or impure.’ One in five girls drop out of school every year in India due to lack of awareness about periods. Seventy-one percent of the girls are not aware of periods when they first get them. That’s the data with which Girish Kalyanaraman, vice president and category leader, feminine care, Procter & Gamble India, along with P&G’s ad agency Leo Burnett, are working to educate and bring about change in the conversation about periods.
As part of the fourth edition of its #KeepGirlsInSchool (KGIS) movement, Whisper has released a new, thought-provoking film titled ‘The Missing Chapter.’ Started in 2020, KGIS is an extension of what Whisper has been doing for the last three decades at the ground level through menstrual education in schools. Whisper was the first brand in the country to advertise sanitary pads. Now, it’s the first brand to show the anatomy of the uterus and period cycles through a film.
In an exclusive conversation with Storyboard18, Kalyanaraman says the movement is focussed on bringing change in society. “The attempt is not to generate immediate sales. The idea is to build on a purpose that resonates with our end consumer,” he adds.
Rajdeepak Das, CEO and chief creative officer, Leo Burnett, South Asia, says it is creatively challenging to narrate the same line of thought over and again. But equally, as a creative professional, he finds it satisfying to work on something that’s beyond advertising.
“Consistency is critical for a campaign like this. There is a strong reason why we didn’t change the name of the film. ‘The Missing Chapter’ is a powerful title,” he added.
This time around Whisper has focused on the need for mothers to open up about periods with their daughters, and support them. In the new film, two young girls take it upon themselves to educate the mother of a friend who misses school when she has her periods. The girls are seen collecting an assortment of objects — a bicycle seat, plastic bottle, pipes, marbles, and watermelons — to create a science project to explain how the female reproductive system functions to their friend’s mother. When they get to their friend’s house, the mother tells them her daughter is ‘unwell,’ a common euphemism for periods.
On the making of the campaign, Das tells us that in order to keep the performances natural, the actors invested time to understand the science and the purpose of the communication.
According to industry reports, only 20 percent of Indian women use sanitary napkins, a product with a market value of over Rs 4,000 crore. The scope of growth for the category is immense. However, Whisper, the category leader, is looking at creating advertising narratives that have a larger impact on the consumer and the society at large, and is not just about increasing sales and revenues.
Last year, Sharat Verma, CMO, and vice president, Fabric Care, P&G India, in a conversation with Storyboard18, had said, “purpose cannot be seasonal.’’ Verma has been working on Ariel’s #ShareTheLoad movement to bring about gender equality in household chores.
Like Verma, Kalyanaraman has been working on bringing about change in society’s attitude towards menstruation. He believes, “Purpose-led campaigns are a force for good, force for change. Any brand that talks purpose, and backs it up with concrete action stands out. In our case, the product itself helps bring alive the purpose.”
Das agrees with Kalyanaraman. He believes the brand’s philosophy is based on making menstrual health better. “It’s in the brand’s DNA. The communication pieces are just one of the few things that Whisper focuses on. All year round the brand is actively talking to girls. There are very few brands that can live and breathe purpose. Whisper is one such,” he concludes.