"This is a story about hormones, and how they changed my life."
This is also the kickoff to "Last Lonely Menopause." Created by AMV BBDO for bladder products brand TENA, the ad won U.K.-based Channel 4's Diversity in Advertising Award, and launched in full two-minute glory during the network's primetime TV window last Friday.
Set to Frazey Ford's "September Fields," "Last Lonely Menopause" feels like a story of adolescence, but it's precisely the opposite. It's stunning how leaving one's biologically "fertile" years looks so much like entering it. The narrator muses, "I used to feel like myself all the time. Now it's like someone else's body's been stuffed inside my skin. Was it my mother's job to prepare me for this?"
But while we think, at first, that the narrator is the daughter talking about puberty, it's actually her mother relating the trials of an equally flustering menopause. And yet the strength in this story is that it actually is both a mother and daughter’s voice, in the sense that the mother is also a daughter, which gives it a reflective poignancy: the mother contemplating her experiences and wondering, in passing, whether her mother was meant to teach her these things, even as her daughter is watching her now, and also transforming.
Directed by Shannon Murphy and produced by Lief, the ad has a twofold goal: to illustrate menopause's similarity to puberty (both initiate a new life stage—a kind of trial by fire), but also to give it a reading in the first place. Everybody knows about menopause. Nobody talks about it.
This is something I've come to notice as I draw closer to my forties. The women older than me, midway through menopause or on the other side of it, have a lot to say about it now, and are angry about everything that wasn't said beforehand. You show up at the doctor's with weird symptoms. They perform some kind of calculus in their brains and go, "Eh, menopause."
Then nothing. Everything you're meant to know is thought to be packaged into that word, then you're ushered off alone into freefall: insomnia, the sudden sweats, the "occasional pelvic floor betrayals" (and thus "the way Kegels become an act of devotion"). But also, like everyone's adolescence, everyone's menopause is a little bit different. It can't be a single word. It's a separate dimension.
"It's like shedding a skin. But sweatier, and with more expletives," the narrator quips, grimly.
Coupled with perimenopause, the phase can sometimes consume up to 10 years—a full decade where everything you thought you understood about the operating system of you is scrambled and rendered almost senseless.
"Then it ends … and you're more yourself than you ever were."
The tale ends thus, and based on what I'm coming to learn about menopause, so will this season. "You almost miss it," a friend told me. And while the ending feels surprising in its brusqueness, I also like the note of it: You don't become someone who shuffles offstage after that. You still get to be you, more so than ever.
I love this idea, the promise of it. It's a script we need, so we can throw older, uglier implications out: What good are you to anyone now?
What comforts me is the belief that the women a decade or two older than me are over the silence about it. Maybe we are entering a generation of the last lonely menopause, a time when this, too, gets "emotionally nuanced coming of age stories of rage, confusion, liberation and becoming," according to AMV BBDO creatives Lauren Peters and Augustine Cerf. Wouldn't that be something?
Channel 4's annual Diversity in Advertising Award offers winning campaigns £1 million worth of commercial airtime across its portfolio, including its streaming service All 4. Launched six years ago, its function is to encourage advertisers to embrace inclusivity while extending the broadcaster's diversity leadership.
This year, the brief revolved specifically around ageism: Research shows people over 50 feel vastly misrepresented in most ads. Some 72 percent of respondents said people their age in advertising are mostly outdated stereotypes.
"TENA is tackling female ageism, presenting a modern perspective on how midlife women live, championing their participation in society, and representation in culture," says Meta Redstedt, global master brand and communications director at TENA. "With this campaign, we are so proud to create a new narrative for the menopause, hopefully starting important conversations in households across the country with Channel 4's generous support."
Brand: TENA Women
Campaign title: #LastLonelyMenopause
Client name: Meta Redstedt, Jason Kaplanis and Stefanie Steegs
Creative Agency: AMV BBDO
CCO: Nicholas Hulley and Nadja Lossgott
Creative Director: Jim Hilson
Creative Team: Lauren Peters and Augustine Cerf
Designer: Vanessa Fowler Kendall
Agency Planning Team: Margaux Revol and Bea Farmelo
Agency Account Team: Laura Hazell and Rebecca Thomas
Creative Production Partner: Trish Russell
Senior Art Producer: Rhiannon Nicol
Senior Interactive Social Producer: Alex Warren
Business Affairs: Michelle Holmes
Production Company: Lief
Director: Shannon Murphy
Production Co. Producer: Margo Mars and Ella Sanderson
Editing Company: Final Cut
Editor: Amanda James and Lucy Berry
Post-Production Company: Daydreamer
Flame: Pete Rypstra and Milo Paterson
VFX Producer: Cat Hammond
Colour: Company 3
Colourist: Yoomin Lee
Sound studio: Wave Studios
Sound Engineer: Parv Thind and Ben Gulvin
Music: "September Fields" Composer/Performer Frazey Ford
Media Agency: Zenith
PR agency: Ketchum PR