Despite the fact that there are over 3.8 billion women in the world, 80% cannot accurately identify the vulva, and a further 73% don't know what it is. The lack of education surrounding the word is causing women to feel confused and embarrassed when discussing sexual health-related topics, leading to a deep-rooted silencing of the word "vulva" across society. The shame many women feel around their vulva is leading to potentially dangerous outcomes, as 35% of women report not attending routine cervical screenings, stating embarrassment as the main reason. Taking a stance on the silencing, body care brand Luna Daily has partnered with London agency JOAN Creative to launch the Vulva Therapy campaign.
The marketing initiative offers a Vulva Hotline, created in partnership with celebrity physiotherapist expert Annabelle Knight, that anyone in the US and UK can call. The hotline utilizes exposure therapy—a type of therapy in which you're gradually exposed to the things, situations, and activities you fear to overcome them. When the number is dialed, a welcome message instructs callers to choose from four different two-minute sessions. Press one for emotional processing, press two for extinction, press three for habituation, press four for self-efficacy, Knight says. Throughout the four sessions, callers are taught what the vulva is and encouraged to use the word with confidence to smash the stigma.
Once the sections have all been listened to, those participating are instructed to press five to hear from Luna Daily founder Katy Cottam. "This campaign was born out of this insight from our research: women are more embarrassed to talk to friends and family about their vulvas than they are about their sex life or how much money they earn," she says.
Joan London created several out-of-home (OOH) displays to promote the hotline, all featuring a bold typeface that puts the word "vulva" front and center on billboards, posters, and stickers on street lamps. The campaigns are set to run for two weeks, with large takeovers on buildings including London’s Tate Modern.
"Triggered? Call 0800-233-LUNA," the UK poster reads. Regardless of the reason, callers choose to utilize the number (whether they actually are triggered or simply wish to learn more), the curiosity surrounding the campaign is sure to lead to some gaining an education they were not actively seeking, which will, in turn, speed up the normalization of the word and get people talking. The hotline is also appropriate for younger members of society who are curious, which is positive, considering a Luna Daily survey found that 91% of women state they were not taught about intimate care at school.
"We have a huge mission trying to tackle how people are taught to speak about their bodies," says Cottam. "We're not just challenging the status quo; we're redefining how society views the word 'vulva' and our bodies. This campaign embodies our mission to empower women and promote open, unapologetic conversations about our bodies. It's about time the vulva is celebrated as a natural and integral part of who we are."
Vulva Therapy has also been pushed across social media; however, issues surrounding censorship could lead to shadow banning on certain apps—all the more reason for the vital education the campaign is pushing. The word "vulva" sits among 40 others that lead to shadow banned content across social media, which means the content, including the word, is likely to reach much fewer people. On LinkedIn, Cottam reworded the originally published post surrounding the campaign, altering the text to v*lva to see if more traction would be gained.
The Vulva Therapy Campaign comes at a time when several women's health brands are creating effective initiatives to educate women on their sexual well-being rights. On the International Day of the Girl in October 2023, period care brand August announced the Tampon Tax Back Coalition to inform their consumers and end tampon tax. The coalition includes a group of brands, including The Honey Pot, Rael, LOLA, Cora, DIVA Cup, Here We Flo, and Saalt, working towards the abolition of tampon tax across the US, allowing menstruators who purchase products from any of these brands from a third party, whether online or in-store, to be reimbursed for the tampon tax at tampontaxback.com.
Tampax is also advocating for sexual health education through its A Better Way to Period initiative that aims to fill gaps in knowledge around period care. The incentive for A Better Way to Period came from Tampax research that found 68% of young women say they received little or no education on the menstrual cycle before they began their period. The campaign features actress Marsai Martin, basketballers Angel Reese and Flau'jae Johnson, as well as ob-gyn Dr. Nicole Sparks, who all share their experiences and provide knowledge and tips through videos posted to Tampax's social media outlets.
In addition, women's personal care brand Flamingo is shortly set to launch a women's sexual health podcast, Unruly, hosted by author Kimberly Drew. The podcast will be released throughout November and December, with eight episodes covering varying once-taboo women's health topics such as egg freezing and body neutrality.
Each of these campaigns are vital, not only to eradicate the stigma surrounding women's sexual health but to ensure women understand their bodies and can feel confident to identify the phases of life they are going through. "It's urgent that women start using the anatomically correct word, 'vulva,'" says gynecologist Dr. Penelope Law. "Medical instructions for your vagina and your vulva can be very different, and not knowing the difference can lead to impacting health issues."
Impactful marketing surrounding women's health, such as Vulva Therapy, creates several opportunities for positive outcomes. The attention-grabbing campaigns will not only help to educate society but also bring attention to Luna Daily as a brand without pushing consumers to purchase—creating a sense of trust that the brand genuinely wishes to make a difference as opposed to focusing on sales only. It is outside-the-box campaigns such as this one that will continue to pave the way and break down barriers surrounding women's sexual health, which could quite literally save lives.
It's time to begin to use the word "vulva" without shame. "If we normalize the word, we smash the stigma," Cottam concludes.
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