How AMV BBDO, CANADA and OKAY STUDIO Went With the Flow in Ground-Breaking Ad for Bodyform
Since launching the award-winning #BloodNormal in 2017, Essity and Bodyform have been in the business of breaking taboos and celebrating the reality of periods. The company’s latest work, promoting a new line of sustainable period pants, continues that legacy.
#LetYourBodyFlow takes an empathetic approach to real situations, all whilst making blood into head-turning art thanks to some skillful work from the director, creatives, and post production team involved in the campaign.
To go behind the scenes, LBB spoke with CANADA director Femke Huurdeman, AMV BBDO creatives Augustine Cerf and Lauren Peters, and OKAY STUDIO’s Nikolaj Belzer, Ruth Wardell, and Bevis Jones…
Above: The #LetYourBodyFlow campaign creates an empowering and cinematic vibe by turning blood into art.
Q> The film showcases real people in real situations. What was your experience like directing this cast, and how did you establish the spot’s naturalistic, empathetic tone?
Femke Huurdeman> It started in our casting sessions, by getting to know who I had in front of me and to feel naturally who would fit in what scene. I saw so many womxn opening up and telling their inspiring stories, so for me it was finding a way to respectfully let them be themselves as much as possible. We also included the talent in making them understand what part they had to play and using their personal stories/skills as part of the scenes.
Q> OKAY STUDIO provided full post production services for this campaign. How do you think the project benefited from your end-to-end capabilities?
Bevis Jones> I'm not sure we would have achieved something quite as honest and powerful without early involvement from flame. The VFX tests we did fed back into the edit, and that edit fed back into VFX, the whole time dipping our toes in and out of Grade.
Ruth Wardell> There was a moment in offline where the creatives were concerned a scene they loved was too dark for the client and they might have to lose it. I had a down moment between other projects and they were able to pop into my suite to discuss the issue. We brightened it up to help with the edit presentation and it sailed through. To me that was a great illustration of how our end-to-end offering can really help the job.
Nikolaj Belzer> We were able to really prepare all elements of the job, sending early shots to flame for tests to see how they worked with performance. And on a personal level just getting to spend the time with the team and see how they approached their part of the project was tremendously helpful.
Q> What was the brief from the client? What were your initial thoughts and how did you see it aligning with Libresse’s previous campaigns, such as Womb Stories and Blood Normal?
Lauren Peters and Augustine Cerf> The brief was to launch Intimawear by Libresse, their new period pants – we carry through our brand ethos of dismantling stigmas around menstruating bodies into everything we do, so we make sure we imbue our product comms with our taboo-breaking attitude as well as our brand campaigns. We wanted to reflect the truth of the product, as well as the truth about our bodies: this is a product that allows us to not have to second-guess our bodies, that allows us to just be, letting our body do its thing. These are pants designs to fit our fluid, complex biology.
So, we wanted to challenge the narrative that periods are the neat 3-5 days of biology textbooks: in reality, periods stop and start, are late and then early, arriving at the most inopportune moments - they’re heavy one day, light the next. We wanted to celebrate this, as well as acknowledging its sometimes frustrating unpredictability. We wanted to fight the outdated notion that female biology is errant, too “messy” and complicated, an idea that can be tracked through a long history of labelling women “hysterical”, often with disastrous consequences. We wanted to undo the modern hangups this type of thinking has lumbered us with, and show the beautiful chaos of our flows. From spotting to discharge to day one periods and everything in between we aimed to broaden the period story, to better reflect reality. Our flows fluctuate the way our bodies do throughout our lives –– like #wombstories, we wanted to tell a complex narrative rather than the one we usually tell about our bodies.
Q> This campaign aims to give a voice to the unseen, unspoken, and unknown truths about women’s bodies. Did you do much research into the subject to ensure the campaign remained wholly realistic? If so, how did these insights influence the direction of the spot?
Lauren & Augustine> We wanted to ensure that we represented a breadth of flows –– from getting your period again after birth, to perimenopausal flows, to the monthly whirlwind of ever-changing periods, sometimes late, sometimes early, to the emotional, hormonal roller coaster. From horny, to happy, grumpy, hungry, and everything in between.
Hormonal should not be a bad word! We are minimised by being called “hormonal” in the same way a word like “hysterical” seeks to undermine the complexity of our experiences – our emotional and physical fluctuations should be accepted, celebrated, represented.
Sometimes our flows make us feel empowered, sometimes they make us feel sad and angry, and other times they just really really hurt. From period pain to period sex, we represented the highs and the lows, based on insights we had gathered about all the different kinds of flows and period experiences.
We also wanted to take the visual representation of periods further - we moved the needle forwards by showing bright red blood instead of blue liquid in Blood Normal, but now we’re ready for the clots, the clumps, the darker older blood, the thinner spotting, the is-it-discharge-is-it-blood - we wanted to make all of these into art, celebrating all the kinds of flows through different visualisations. Some were more realistic, and others heightened our flows into art, poeticising what has often been seen as unsightly.
Q> Ruth, the grade is brilliantly striking, reflecting this surreal approach whilst also playing perfectly into the ongoing colour scheme of Libresse’s campaigns. How did you work with the agency and client to make this happen?
Ruth> Fundamentally, it was important to have a clear understanding of the brand as a whole. I was afforded the combination of a clear briefing and wonderful lighting, set design and wardrobe. That provided me with the perfect foundation to utilise and further the colour scheme associated with Libresse campaigns. When it came to the grade itself, the agency creatives and I worked together to bring out various elements of the image creating subtle colour separation within the Libresse colour palette. This in combination with leaning into the lighting used in each setup allowed us to create rich images that enhanced the mood and emotions being conveyed.
Q> And Bevis, the VFX in the spot not only heightens the campaign’s cinematic feel, but really helps reinforce the emotional and physical elements of each scene. That comes through in the blood of ‘clotty-clumpy’, or the lightning effects of ‘calm then stormy’. What kind of challenges did you face bringing that to life in a way which feels ‘real’?
Bevis> The challenge was to create scenes that felt appropriate to the emotion and moods we were trying to convey. We tried lots and lots of different textures and (film) processes in flame during the offline with Femke and the agency creatives Lauren & Augustine. If it wasn't feeling right, they could change the edit and imagery. It’s the benefit of being involved early on in the process, otherwise as a flame artist you can often find yourself pushing a square peg into a round hole. It means nothing feels forced or ‘stuck on’, and we were able to use simple natural VFX solutions to convey the messages.
Q> Femke, one of the goals of the campaign was to make blood into art. How did you initially respond to this aspect of the brief and how is it showcased in the final spot? Was there anything in particular (research, films, art) that influenced your approach?
Femke> I loved the brief, it was very creative and had room for telling honest stories through bloo-like visuals. At first I wanted to try to do as much as possible in-camera, but in the end we found that mixing digital found footage with projection was the most effective. I think the whole vibe of my treatment was leaning towards more of a '70s psychedelic/surreal cinema/art atmosphere, so I think that’s to be seen back in the end result.
Q> The film is cinematic and surreal, but also realistic and honest. What was it like trying to balance these two seemingly disparate elements?
Femke> Together with Deepa Keshvala, my DP, we came up with a very classic style of camera because we felt that our talent had to be at the center and using minimal movement to tell the story. I think that the talent feeling at ease on-set and making them understand what the specific scene and film were about helped with conveying that realistic edge within a world full of surreal imagery.
Q> Nikolaj, the spot is immediately impactful despite being only 30 seconds long. From an editor’s perspective, how did you give every stoppy-starty, sometimes lovely moment its chance to shine?
Nikolaj> Script, creative, and especially casting were all so spot-on for this. I saw the potential in the rushes straight away. Femke and the creative team from AMV, and the post team at OKAY - everyone was on the same page and contributed massively to getting the creative right.
Having a range of fantastic performances to play with meant we could focus straight-away on nailing the edit. Equally, it allowed us to play with the order and improvise on the script, which is crucial for a piece that was taboo-breaking but with a light-hearted touch. There is such a wide range of emotions Femke wanted to put across, while at the same time not falling into cliches or stereotypes. I am super proud of the final result, and so enjoyed putting this together with such an awesome group of creatives.
Q> AMV, was there a line to tread between being unashamed and honest, whilst not putting off women who have complicated feelings about their periods? How did you balance this message, especially with a brand new product?
Lauren & Augustine> We wanted to celebrate the beautiful chaos of our bodies, but also acknowledge just that: the chaos, the ups and the downs, the unpredictability, without sugar coating. We showed painful periods, nodded to the complexity of post-partum flows, to the messiness of our flows in general, as well as acknowledging it’s not always easy to have periods, depicting a woman sighing through a period cramp, clasping her hot water bottle, as well as lighter or more celebratory moments.
Q> Lockdown restrictions have now been in place for over a year. What do you think you’ve learned from the past 12 months that not only informed this campaign, but how you collaborated with CANADA and OKAY STUDIO throughout the process?
Lauren & Augustine> Lockdown meant we had to be resourceful with how we shot the campaign, both in terms of incorporating found footage for the fluids and ensuring we weren’t mixing different households on set. It was an interesting challenge: how to integrate the different elements so that the film felt like a cohesive whole, to blur the distinction between stock imagery and what we shot specifically for the campaign. Having to use stock imagery, in the end, pushed us into a more creative space. We worked with CANADA and OKAY STUDIO to do this, making use of grading and overlays and cutout clots.
Q> What are your personal highlights from working on this campaign?
Femke> It’s mainly the people involved to be honest. I felt that everybody saw and felt the importance of challenging the narrative in period ads, and therefore we all spoke the same language throughout the process. I’d love hearing our talent opening up about their relationship with their periods and realised it is not that common still in our world. So I hope that in the future we will get rid of blood shaming, and we can all find comfort in hearing other womxns stories.
Lauren & Augustine> It was a joy to take something traditionally seen as shameful and grotesque – like fluids – and to subvert perceptions by beautifying them through art. It’s not everyday you get to bring to life ‘clots and clumps’ and propel blood droplets across a curtain in the name of smashing taboos!
Nikolaj> Nikolaj: I think two things really stood out on this project for me. For one the opportunity to really develop, explore and collaborate with Ruth, Robin, Bevis and our post team - it’s why I love doing end-to-end jobs. Then it was literally about breaking new ground on the creative and in the work with Femke, Lauren, Augustine and Darapen. There were a lot of honest conversations that, given the subject matter I wouldn’t usually be privy to, to see how we could push this further while trying to not fall into cliches or stereotypes to keep it original and true to their collective vision. A true team effort.
Featured Companies: AMV BBDO
Category: Beauty & Health , Sanitary protection
Genre: Visual VFX