Essity, global hygiene and health company and owner of Bodyform, Libresse, Nana, Nuvenia, Saba and Nosotras, is committed to breaking the taboos that hold women back. With the award-winning #BloodNormal campaign in 2017, Bodyform and Libresse tackled the stigma around periods, turning blue liquid red and showing period blood as it really is. With “Viva La Vulva” in 2018, singing vulvas called out the toxic myth of the perfect vulva.
In 2020, Bodyform and Libresse have now created their boldest campaign to date, confronting a damaging etiquette that women live with every day, one which dictates what they should – and shouldn’t – feel about their bodies.
With #wombstories, Bodyform and Libresse push back against the single, simplistic narrative girls are taught from a young age: start your period in adolescence, repeat with “a bit” of pain, want a baby, get pregnant, have more periods, stop periods, fade into the menopausal background.
The reality is, of course, much messier, but society doesn’t encourage women to talk openly about the highs and lows of their intimate health, especially in times of global uncertainty. A new research study of women and men by Bodyform and Libresse found that two-thirds of women who experienced miscarriage, endometriosis, fertility issues and menopause said that being open with family and friends helped them cope.
With #wombstories from agency AMV BBDO in London, Bodyform and Libresse want to encourage an open culture where everyone can express what they go through without fearing they won’t be properly heard or believed and without feeling shame that they are somehow less than what they were taught to be. The pleasure, the pain, the love, the hate. It’s never simple but it all needs to be heard. Because keeping it in or leaving it unheard comes at an emotional and physical cost both at an individual and collective level.
For #wombstories, Bodyform and Libresse worked with Golden Globe-winning and Emmy-nominated director, writer and producer Nisha Ganatra, a predominantly female crew and an all-women team of animators and illustrators who have imagined the life of wombs. Ganatra directed via Chelsea Pictures. Framestore provided animation and live-action visual effects.
From the burning down apartment of a peri-menopausal woman, a monster ripping at an endometriosis sufferer’s uterus, a woman’s “flood gate” moment during her period and an unexpected sneeze, to the woman who has chosen not to have children and the often-turbulent journey of trying to conceive. These few womb stories chronicle the sometimes beautiful, sometimes brutal human side of the biology and physiology they experienced every day. And while only a handful of experiences are shown, they represent the billions of complex experiences--from hysterectomies, postpartum trauma, artificial menopause, being a trans-man, the list is long.
Framestore brought to life six animated sequences, each featuring a different style of animation to show the inner-worlds that act as reflections to the realities of the uterus. Framestore creative director Sharon Lock worked with AMV BBDO executive creative directors Nadja Lossgott and Nicholas Hulley (aka Nick & Nadja) to carefully select the styles of animations that would bring to life the emotions and unique perspectives of each story. Styles included 2D cel techniques and stop frame animation, as well as hand-painted images created with oil paint on glass.
Lock worked with the team of artists to direct the animated sequences and work as the main central point of creativity for them with the client and agency. Talking about bringing those visually different elements together into a single cohesive and powerful film, Lock said “it was important that the animations produced for this film not only looked as good as possible but also made an emotional impact on audiences because of the nature of the film. We worked with animators who had wonderful storytelling abilities and whose work was unique and handmade and could communicate a range of tone and emotion to audiences in a short amount of time on-screen.”
The team at Framestore, which included producers Niamh O’Donohoe and Emma Cook, was a part of the lion’s share of cast and crew who were women, something that they felt made a big difference in creating something that was honest and powerful. ‘We were telling real stories about the experiences of being a woman so having the team we did meant we had something of a shorthand,’ commented O’Donohoe. ‘We could easily communicate what we needed because there was a mutual understanding of how these stories had to be presented, something that I feel beautifully reflects the messages that Libresse/Bodyform is always communicating.’
Framestore also delivered invisible VFX work for the film’s live action portions and created a world of uteri which represents the billions of women who are a part of the Libresse’s/Bodyform’s story. These visuals are featured in the opening and closing sequences that will become the brand’s main visual for this campaign.
“It was important that everyone worked really closely together to make sure every frame did its part in telling the stories and I think the final piece speaks for itself. It was amazing to be part of such an inspiring and creative campaign,” concluded Lock.
Ganatra said, “When they’re at their best, our bodies are incredible machines that give us pleasure, and, if we want them to, help us propagate the human race. But they don’t always work. Hell, they don’t often work. Irregular periods. Endometriosis. Miscarriages and infertility. Our bodies can bring joy but also pain and devastation. It’s an emotional roller coaster that lasts a lifetime. I feel particularly drawn to this project. The work I feel most passionate about is the work that meaningfully resists outmoded social norms that no longer fit the cultural moment but persist, nonetheless. When my daughter is an adult, it shouldn’t just be acceptable for a woman to have ownership over her body and over her narrative. It shouldn’t just be acceptable for people to be who they want and to love who they want and to choose not to have children if they want. This should be the norm.”
Lossgott, AMV BBDO ECD and art director on the campaign, said, “Periods don’t just exist in isolation. They are connected to this entire ecosystem centered around our wombs, which almost acts as a second seat of power that rules us in such profound ways. We have this intensely complicated relationship with it. And yet this life-long bittersweet journey with our bodies is still considered something to shut up about. By visualizing and anthropomorphizing our wombs, we can begin to open up an emotional and human way to express these often complicated, contradictory feelings of love and hate, of pain and pleasure, of the mundane and the profound we constantly deal with.”
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Client Libresse & Bodyform (owned by Essity) Agency AMV BBDO, London Alex Grieve, chief creative officer; Nadja Lossgott, Nicholas Hulley, executive creative directors; Toby Allen, Jim Hilson, creative directors; Edwina Dennison, TV producer; Lucia Fioravanti, assistant TV producer; Fiona Bailey, art production. Production Chelsea Pictures, bicoastal Nisha Ganatra, director; Shanah Blevins, producer; Lisa Mehling, president/exec producer; Pat McGoldrick, exec producer; Natasha Braier, DP; Mario Kerkstra, design; Adam Hinton, photographer.. Editorial Trim Editing, London Elise Butt, editor. Audio 750mph Sam Ashwell, sound engineer. Music Priestess Shura Remix by Pumarosa Animation, VFX & Color Framestore London Sharon Lock, creative director animation; Haein Kim, Carine Khalife, Salla Lehmus at Soja, Roos Mattaar, Kate Isobel Scott at Everyone Agency, Laura Jayne Hodkin at Strange Beast, Annie Wong, Aylin Ohri, Meagan Elemans, Molly Grace Lawton, Georgie Wilemore, Nella Addy, animators; Tri Do, comp lead; Simon Stoney, compositor; Lee Matthews, digital matte painting; Tim Greenwood, Flame; Simon Bourne, colorist; Emma Cook, VFX producer; Niamh O’Donohoe, design sr. producer. uliet Lock, creative director animation; Haein Kim, Carine Khalife, Salla Lehmus at Soja, Roos Mattaar, Kate Isobel Scott at Everyone Agency, Laura Jayne Hodkin at Strange Beast, Annie Wong, Aylin Ohri, Meagan Elemans, Molly Grace Lawton, Georgie Wilemore, Nella Addy, animators; Tri Do, comp lead; Simon Stoney, compositor; Lee Matthews, digital matte painting; Tim Greenwood, Flame; Simon Bourne, colorist; Emma Cook, VFX producer; Niamh O’Donohoe, design sr. producer. (Toolbox: Photoshop, Nuke, Houdini, Flame, oil paint on glass, stop-motion using models made of fabric over metal armatures)