Is it even Women's History Month if we don't talk about female incontinence? No.
Incontinence brand Tena just hatched "#Ageless," created by AMV BBDO, the agency that in 2018 brought us the unforgettable "Viva La Vulva" for Libresse.
I was prepared not to like the ad, for reasons adjacently related. There's a Tena spot that plays all the time here in France. It involves a woman weight-lifting, and closeups of her bum as she squats. The idea is that, for some older women, deep squats in tight pants inevitably result in an embarrassing little stain of wee. But the woman turns toward the camera and, with a worldly glint in her eye, whispers, "Luckily I've got a secret weapon in my panties."
I cringe every time I see it.
But you know what? "#Ageless" isn't that. In fact, it almost makes me like the aforementioned more.
This work is shot by Yorgos Lanthimos, who directed The Favourite. Inspired by research that finds young women (18-34 years old) have an imperfect perception of aging, intimacy and incontinence (surprise!), it features women over 55 talking about sex and their bodies while studying themselves. The set includes props from their homes.
It's very female-gaze, less for us than for them. And it does feel true: Something about the number of rings on fingers, the candor and vulnerability coupled in their confessions, the way skin curves over clothes, how they caress themselves with affection—something I suspect (and in my case, know) younger women generally struggle to feel, even on a good day when we've been to Soul Cycle.
More importantly, it is tender toward the women themselves; they're in no way slain on the altar of the viewer. When they recount their nicknames for incontinence—the trickle of joy, the sneeze-whee—I cringed a little. But faced with the frank, fearless closeups that followed, I submitted to the closing words, stated merely as fact, unvarnished by defense: "Too much? Well… it's not about you. It's about me."
"We are on a mission to challenge the current perception that incontinence is something to be embarrassed about," says marketing manager Lisa Myers of Tena. "The research findings clearly demonstrate that there is a huge disparity between younger and older women when it comes to understanding the realities of incontinence and its impact on sex and intimacy in later life. We created this film to celebrate older women and tackle the taboo around aging and intimacy, collaborating with Yorgos to ensure the women featured felt empowered and that their perspectives and stories were accurately told."
"#Ageless" premiered Monday in the U.K. on Channel 4. It is also running in France and Germany, in cinemas, on TV, and alongside podcast ads and activations, including one with French women's magazine Femme Actuelle. In a likely similar effort, the Guardian in the U.K. will publish a weekly "diary entry" for women of all ages.
Tena also partnered with femtech brand Je Joue to send 200 influencers across these markets an "intimate device" (we know what those are!) for exercising the pelvic floor and bringing some ageless added pleasure to the foyer.
Global Master Brand and Communications Director, TENA: Meta Redstedt
Global Marketing & Communications Director, TENA: Oscar Ayala
Global Brand Communications Manager, TENA: Jason Kaplanis
Creative Directors: Rosie Arnold, Toby Allen, Jim Hilson
Creative Team: Clark Edwards, Andre Hull, Verity Fenner, Julia Merino
CEO: Sarah Douglas
Chief Strategy Officer: Bridget Angear
Strategy Partner: Tom White
Senior Strategist: Rob Sellars
Senior Board Account Director: Tessa Brisbane, Harriet Harrison
Senior Account Director: Laura Hazell
Senior Account Manager: Rebecca Thomas
Account Executive: Aneesha Ghattaora
Agency Producer: Polly Lowles, Rosie Stipic, Olivia Fryer
Agency Designer: Chris Chapman, Richard Holgate
Project Manager: Sammy Kennard
Director/ Production Co: Yorgos Lanthimos / Merman
Production Company Producer: Adam Saward
Production Company Executive Producer: Dan Dickenson, Siobhan Murphy
Editor: Amanda James / Claire McGonigal - Final Cut
Post Production: Framestore
Sound Design: Johnnie Burns / Martin Leitner - Wave
DoP: Robbie Ryan