​​​Miriam E.Tucker

Picture Your Ad Down There
(Written in 2006)

“Staying active during your period can help relieve cramps.” 
“Drink 6-8 glasses of water daily to help keep you hydrated and feeling fresh.” 
“Avoiding caffeine may help reduce cramps and headaches.” 

I read these pithy pieces of advice while seated on the commode. It was that time of the month, and I was about to embark on the trying task of placing a pantiliner exactly in target range (guys, you think playing darts is difficult). I peeled the waxy, oblong strip off the adhesive beneath the pad, and there they were: Kotex® Tips for Life...printed in Spanish and French too, no less. 

Evidently, feminine hygiene product manufacturer Kimberly-Clark had adopted the tactics of the Chinese fortune cookie...Who knew? But, I thought, though it was certainly sweet that the company wanted to deliver helpful healthcare messages to its customers, why had they stopped at mere public service? 

Seems to me that K-C—along with major competitors McNeil-PPC, Inc. (Stayfree) Proctor & Gamble (Always)—are missing a massive marketing opportunity. With advertisements enveloping everything from buses to bathroom stalls to USAirways’ barf bags, nothing is sacred anymore when it comes to reaching the eyeballs of potential purchasers. Why not this intimate advertising encounter? 

We’re talking about a HUGE market. There are about 65 million females in the U.S. between the ages of 14 and 44, of whom nearly all who aren’t pregnant are bleeding for a few days every month. They’ll typically use thin pads on light days or with tampons, and maxis for overnight. 

And then there are the 11 million women—many of them postmenopausal—with urinary incontinence, for which Kimberly-Clark makes another type of pad called Poise. What’s the difference? Who knows...They look exactly alike. Anyway, the point is that you stick ‘em in place with the same type of peel-off adhesive. 

And the need for a catch-all doesn’t always stop during pregnancy, either. I’ll skip the detail...If you’re curious, just ask any woman who’s been there. 

Add up the numbers, and the Strip beats the Barf Bag heads down. 

The Strip scores in versatility, too. Measuring about 5-7 inches in length and 1-2” in diameter, it provides plenty of primo space to place ads for the steady stream of products that women buy: Tissues, toilet paper, tampons, moisturizer, makeup...How about acne cream for the teens? And pain medicine, of course. Indeed, while it’s probably not a good idea to push the new pill that cuts your periods down to just three or four times a year—Or incontinence treatments, for that matter—just about any other over-the-counter or prescription drug is fair game. 

The Strip could also promote the product itself. After all, most women don’t wear sanitary pads every single day...Let’s change that! 

Here’s an idea: A Willy Wonka-esque sweepstakes, where instead of the one-in-a million gold prize ticket wrapped ‘round the chocolate bar, there’d be a specially-marked underside to one of the adhesive strips. Peel the lucky one and you win…Perhaps a lifetime’s supply of sanitary products or a shopping spree at Victoria’s Secret. A week’s vacation at a Red Sea resort? Okay, okay...best not to completely oversaturate the metaphor. 

In any case, it would make really fun evening news fodder to watch thousands of women flooding Wal-marts all over the country, knocking each other over trying to snatch up all the boxes of pads they can wrap their hands around. 

Even men might become customers. Taking a tip from M&Ms, which now offers personalized custom-printed candies, a guy could buy his gal a gift she can actually use: A custom-designed box of sanitary napkins, with a different personal declaration of love on each Strip: "You’re swell." "I ache for you." "My heart overflows." Give her chocolate, and you run the risk of being blamed for subsequent weight gain. With the romantic panty-pads, on the other hand...Well, at least that won’t happen. 

With fears of corporate spreadsheets oozing red ink and of profits drying down to a dribble, you’d think somebody would have stumbled on this baby by now. Then again, there’s a simple explanation: Most of Madison Avenue is male. Of course one needn’t possess a vagina to know that advertising in Vogue or on Oprah will induce women to buy your product. But the Strip is another matter. No matter how sensitive the man, his mind just ain’t gonna go there...Period. 

So, Kimberly-Clark, McNeil, Proctor & Gamble and the rest: What are you waiting for? It’s time to peel out of your ruts and stick it to the competition! ###