Wednesday, July 31, 2013


Behind the Scenes at Camp Gyno, the "Best Tampon Ad in the History of the World"

Since being posted early Monday morning, the "Camp Gyno" video advertisement for the period-supply subscription service Hello Flo has racked up almost 2 1/2 million views and been called the "funniest period commercial ever" by ABC News, the "best tampon ad in the history of the world" by HuffPo, and the "ad of the year" by Buzzfeed.

The fuss around the video has done a lot to highlight the retrograde stagnation of tampon ads at large, as well as the fact that anything related to woman's reproduction is an instant, wheel-spinning controversy magnet. You might remember this "Are Tampons Anti-Feminist?" piece from earlier this month ("The problem with invisibility is just that."), and after watching "Camp Gyno," editors at the Atlantic questioned the invisibility-friendly business model of Hello Flo as well as suggested that the company's marketing technique is infantilizing ("Don't try to make me buy into this hip lifestyle brand represented by a precocious 11-year-old").

But: "If I felt that women were supposed to be embarrassed to buy tampons, I wouldn't have called the company Hello Flo," says Naama Bloom, the founder. "I'm absolutely a feminist, and I want to use this business to create a locus of girls and women being empowered, owning themselves, having lots of information. Still, honestly, when we set out to make the video, aside from wanting to keep the irreverent tone of the brand in our heads, we were not setting out to make a girl-power manifesto. I just wanted to talk about a true thing that happens—to make an ad that women would actually recognize themselves in, to show that the reality of periods is not this hidden, sanitized thing where girls are wearing white pants and riding horses in a meadow."

Last night I talked to Bloom, as well as the ad's writers and directors Pete Marquis and Jamie McCelland, about how Camp Gyno came to be.

Did you know from the beginning that you wanted to have an unusual ad campaign? 

Naama: Oh, yeah. That was one of the things I knew I could do that a bigger company couldn't—and I was glad to have that license, and to be able to do something different. And I'm going up against Proctor & Gamble and Kimberly Clarke, and doing this all on personal money, so I knew there was no other way to go. I can't buy advertising yet.

So I sat down with Pete and said, "Okay, here are the universals." Every adult remembers the one girl who got her period at school and bled through her pants. It's this inevitably social thing. Every woman remembers having, or being, that friend who just has all the information—who's somehow more advanced, and educates everyone else. That was really the genesis of Camp Gyno.

Pete: Basically, with other tampon commercials, you either mute it or change the channel. We were wondering how we could get past that barrier. Women in comedy have taken these issues to different levels recently, and tampon advertising hasn't really caught up with the times.

I love that the blog on the Hello Flo website links to that incredible Amy Schumer sketch with that group of friends who can't take each other's compliments. 

Naama: Yeah, it's amazing. You see it and you're thrown, because it's you, and you can't believe you've done this sort of thing for so long. And again, that's my training in marketing: the things that work are the things that hit the closest to home. It's just because of the way the media is today that people will interpret something as a big message even if you're just trying to represent what you've seen in your own life.

Tell me about the casting process for Camp Gyno. 

Naama: Pete and Jamie really wanted to find a redhead because of the logo, but then Macy just knocked our socks off.

Jamie: When we went into casting we wanted to leave it open as far as the Camp Gyno's personality because we didn't have it totally defined yet, but when Macy [McGrail] came in, it was like the Camp Gyno had come to visit. It was like we had conjured her out of the script and into real life. We all looked at each other like, "Is this person real?"

Pete: "And why is she looking at me like that?" She delivered the lines so weirdly, so differently. She blew us away.

What I love about this ad is that it detaches the idea of periods from any sense of adult female acceptability or appeal. Was it really deliberate to use a younger angle?

Naama: That's actually been pretty controversial. Most of the feedback I've gotten has been positive, but some people got a little ruffled about young people using tampons. I even got an email from a girl who wrote, "I'm 11 and my mom won't let me use tampons, can you send me a box for free?"

I was like, "Oh, no, I can't, you really need to talk to your mom about this, not me."

The no-tampons-till-you're-older thing has always made me uncomfortable. There seems to be a weird subtext about penetration that sexualizes something that is so, so un-sexual to a 10-year-old. 

Naama: Yeah. There's some questionable information out there. I've become aware of people who still think you can lose your virginity using tampons. People just don't know! But Camp Gyno, I really don't think she's sexualized at all. To me, she comes off like a cute little kid who's just discovering life. The issue with this discomfort about young people using tampons—that's an adult issue, not a children's issue.

I actually didn't expect originally to market tampons to all ages of customer. I thought I would offer a tampon box, and a pad-only box that would be like a starter kit for younger girls. And then I spoke to a number of young women—I'm 40—and I spoke to women who were 20, 21, and they said they started using tampons as soon as they got their period, which wasn't how it was when I grew up. I was sort of floored! And moms corroborated it, with their experience with their daughters: they said, "Yeah, girls are playing more sports, it's just a fact now."

Was it strange to design period jokes for a 10-year-old? 

Naama: Luckily Macy's mom is really cool. She has a great sense of humor, and felt comfortable with the material that we ended up using. And, although Jamie and Pete wrote the ad, I was very closely involved, trying to keep a woman's perspective in the mix—at some jokes, I was like, "No mother would let their 10-year-old daughter say this. Vagina can't be the punchline. We can say vagina, but we can't make fun of vaginas."

So the Joan of Arc joke was sort of us reaching a balance, and then I added in things like the mirror that Macy hands to her campmate—men would never know to add in a detail like that, but the mirror is such an essential part of the learning process. It had to be in there.

Pete: Yeah, the Joan of Arc joke—we were trying to think of things that we would think are funny, but also that we could imagine a ten-year-old saying, even if she was mostly mimicking, or didn't fully understand. And while we filmed the video, we figured if Macy was making the whole crew laugh, the joke was fine, it worked.

Jamie: We knew we wanted an edgy video, but also that there was a line. So we just threw a ton of jokes at it, around the line, behind it, in front of it. Naama was a huge help filtering what was right to fit on the edge of what would be funny and also shareable.

Pete: The whole time we were mindful that this product is for women, so we asked friends and coworkers and girlfriends about it, to make sure what we wrote would be funny and not make people cringe.

Anything cringeworthy you can remember that didn't make the cut? 

Jamie: Something cringeworthy for me that did make it in was the ketchup scene.

Pete: I pushed pretty hard for that ketchup scene. That poor, poor Dora doll.

Jamie and Pete—as guys doing a tampon commercial, did you get any weird reactions when you told people what you were up to at work? 

Jamie: Nothing overt or overtly sexist, but sometimes this silence that was just a little too long. "We're doing a video for a tampon delivery service," and then I could watch people—both boys and girls—just mentally wander away for a few seconds, and then be like, "Oh, oh, okay."

Naama, did you have a Camp Gyno-like first period experience? 

Naama: You know, I don't even remember my first period. It was me and my mom and my sister living together, so I grew up around tampons and pads and knowing what all that stuff was. I think, when I got my period, I was proud. I never had an "I don't know what this is!" moment. I was happy, I was glad I wasn't the last one of my friends to get it. And I didn't know how to use tampons at first—I think, actually, that I learned at camp.

56 Comments / Post A Comment


I keep thinking about how great it would have been to have a service like this when I was in college without a car or easy public transportation (not to mention general laziness).

Love the concept, love the commercial.


Totally hilarious ad. It's kind of refreshing for them to not go with silhouettes/white pants/smiling woman trifecta common in tampon and pad commercials.

This would have been a super-neat and helpful service back when I was still using tampons/pads. However, I have cheerfully converted to menstrual cups? Life. So much simpler.


@celeec4@twitter I'm a cup user too, but if I could sign up for a monthly package of chocolate, salt & vinegar chips, and ibuprofen, that would be okay.


Baby KStew?


@Lyesmith Except this gal can actually act.


@commanderbanana How dare you. http://ow.ly/nvEU9

(JK I just wanted to use that gif)


@Lyesmith KStew/Chloe Moretz hybrid.


Every kid in this ad is gold. The girl's face when she hands her the mirror! I'm dying.


Just chiming in that I love the ad and I'm seriously thinking about subscribing to the service (I am forever running out of tampons at the exact wrong time). I also really love the blog, that the whole endeavour is both a business and a forum. Tumblr isn't the most comment-friendly platform, but it's cool that they're making an effort to talk openly about periods in a not-condescending, not-pseudo-girl-power way. Yay Naama!


I'm glad it's very quiet at work today. I can't stop crying with laughter here. AND, the camp gyno could easily be my daughter, same look, same attitude.


THE RED BADGE OF COURAGE. I'm calling my period that from now on.


@rosaline I'm torn between that and "Crimson Typhoon" after the Chinese jaeger from Pacific Rim.

Toastface Killah

Oh man. I haven't gotten my period in 6 months (since I got my IUD), but this ad is so damn good it almost makes me miss it.


I love this video so much, and really appreciate the interview with the creators. But, I was really hoping to get some insight into the total disconnect between the messaging of the video vs. the messaging of the website.

As much as the video is an exuberant and open delight, the website trades in the same old embarrassment tropes that they claim they're trying to undo. "Discreet box" and "sensitivity of this purchase" and the description of the discomfort of taking your tampons to the bathroom at work. Seriously, what gives?

I wrote more about this here: http://www.virginitymovie.com/?p=7690 and would love to hear other people's take on this.


@Trixie I see what you're saying. This is a tough one, because even thought I'm a pretty strong, dynamic, successful, vocal feminist, I still don't really want a box with a big "TAMPONS" stamped on it delivered with my mail. Just like I don't want "SEX TOYS R US" stamped across the box when I get a lubricant in the mail. I'm a 34 year old woman. People know I have periods. People know I have sex. What's the big deal? In an ideal world our menstrual blood might be placed in the category of "sacred" b/c of it's connection to life and fertility. But b/c it's jumbled up with stuff that normally goes in a toilet, we categorize it as "profane." And yes, there are larger issues about women's genitals being perceived as "dirty" but how far are we going to carry it in the opposite direction? Do you just whip out a tampon at work and openly carry it on your way to the bathroom? I don't. And I'm not trying to be a smartass here...genuinely asking b/c I think it's an interesting question.

Bottom line is that these people are trying to sell a service. That process makes a lot of people feel icky no matter what they're selling, including me. I followed the Lloyd Dobbler career path - I don't sell anything, buy anything, or process anything...


@chevyvan I hear you. I've been having this convo with friends because of my post, and my issue is really not about how we interact with our tampons. That's our business, although we *are* socially conditioned to think of it as icky. Personally, I've always been a big fan of Vinnie's Tampon Cases for this task.

So here's my confusion. We love the video, the tampon tossing, the unabashed vocabulary, and the founders pledge to create more openness. But then on the site we encounter language that reinforces the idea that period paraphernalia obviously needs to be hidden away. There's a disconnect and it feel disingenuous to me. So, yeah: Don't send it in a big box marked TAMPONS, but also don't go out of your way to write copy that reinforces that it needs to be discreet, sensitive and embarrassing. Not after the victory of that video.


@Trixie My guess would be, again, the bottom line: marketing. They want as many customers as possible. The ones that think the video is awesome, and the ones who want discreet packaging, and they're betting on most people not paying attention to the contradictory messages those 2 approaches are sending. And again, it's the sales pitch out both sides of the mouth that's the icky part to people like you and me.


@chevyvan Very well put.

Ladies Who Punch

@Trixie I don't like people knowing I'm having my period. It's totally natural & I will talk about it, but some times, my biz is my biz. It has less to do with thinking it's dirty, but rather that it is my body & I don't want to share it with people.

I do hear you on the double speak though.


Once while on vacation with my girlfrind's family, my girlfriend decided it would be easier for us to pack our suitcases in her brother's living room. She then proceeded to toss all of our belongings in the middle of the floor, including my tampons and pads. I was mortified. She was confused. She said "you're a woman. They know you have periods". And I said "yes, but I don't want them to know I'm having it right now". For me it's a privacy issue. I'm not ashamed of my period but I prefer discretion. I'm not ashamed of having sex, or boogers, or bowel movements, but I don't want to share it with the whole world. So therefore, I understand the company marketing their product discretely. As a private but unashamed person, I appreciate it.

Beatrix Kiddo

@Ladies Who Punch I don't want people to know WHEN I'm having my period, because it gives sexist men an excuse to dismiss me if I'm angry about something. (Not that they won't just assume and do that anyway, but it helps a little.)


@Ladies Who Punch @Natkat @Beatrix Kiddo Totally respect your thoughts. My disconnect is with everyone (rightly) raving about the open unashamed attitude of the video, but then having no problem with the same old discreet and sensitive language on the site? I mean, even that exuberant tampon-throwing girl gets shut down by the discreet white box in the end. Could there ever be an 'Office Gyno" video, for example, tossing tampons at her co-workers?


YES! I saw this earlier and was halfway through emailing it to the Hairpin editors before I assumed they'd seen it on their own. The blog also posted the "Modern Fairy Tales" story from a few weeks back on here.

"this is your life now"


I love this ad, but would never use such a service because they don't send o.b., and those are the only acceptable tampons in my book.


@julia a thousand times yes. I can't tell you how many times I get weird looks from my friends that I use o.b. and I don't know why. Also do you remember the Great O.B. Scare of a few years ago when they disappeared off all the shelves? Yikes.


@EllyHigginbottom Once I offered a tampon to a girl in a locker room who was pounding on an empty tampon machine (that thing didn't have tampons in it ONCE in the five years that I was going to that gym), and she turned it down because it was OB. Zuh?

Ladies Who Punch

@bocadelperro Maybe because there was no applicator? I'm a big fan of applicators to not get my hands more dirty, but given the choice of something or nothing, of course I'd take something.

Also, I prefer non-bleached cotton tampons myself. They're pricier, but putting bleach in my vadge badge where there are membranes sounds like a bad idea.


@Ladies Who Punch yeah I mean I was just surprised because she was desperately pounding on the machine, and when I told her I had one she was super excited, and then it was like I'd handed her a cockroach. I was pretty shocked, but I spent large amounts of my 20s in Germany, and I sometimes as a result forget that applicator tampons are a thing.


@bocadelperro I grew up in Holland and Switzerland and non-applicator ones were pretty much the norm. When I moved to the UK for uni I had to go looking for non-applicator ones, though fortunately they're easier to find now. I have never been able to make applicators work for me. They're just awkward and messy--whenever I've needed to use one I've just removed the tampon. And so much rubbish! But it's all academic for me now because menstrual cups <3


I'm not opposed to no applicator in principle - I know how to insert them fine - but I like plastic applicator tampons chiefly because they're less dry. With plastic applicator the dry part doesn't kind of scrape along the sides going in like a cardboard applicator or no applicator does. Also I don't feel like I need to wash my hands afterwards. (I mean, I would if I were about to eat, but not if I'm just sitting in my room reading or something.)

Rhinestone Eater@twitter

@EllyHigginbottom Dude. I was visiting my mom (who converted me to the wonders of O.B. back in the '70s) during the great OB scare of November 2010.

I started, and she said she hadn't had tampons in forever, as she was an old, so I went to the Giant and had to settle for some cutesy tampons.

She passed away a few weeks ago, and I was going through her dresser, and I found a box of OB's. Bitch was holdin' out on me!

I tried to explain this to my stepfather, but he didn't quite understand.


@julia FAQ says shes hoping to carry more options in the future. sounds like its a major personal start up, and most likely Always and Tampax, are just the most popular brands (and possibly cutting her a deal?) I hope they carry Lunapads someday because HIPPIES

Rhinestone Eater@twitter

@bocadelperro I waited for years to be that smug asshole who asks: Do you not know where it goes?

I got that chance, and I was smug, and I was an asshole.


@glitterary I got a hand-me-down package of applicator tampons earlier this year and they straight-up hurt to put in. Apparently it's OB or nothing for me.
@Rhinestone Eater@twitter yeah, I was just taken aback, and then I thought to myself "man, my compatriots are such prudes." (I have this thought in locker rooms a lot, and it's not like I spend a lot of time walking around naked.)

Ladies Who Punch

@Rhinestone Eater@twitter I'm sorry about your Mom. This, however is one of the sweetest tampon hoarding stories I've heard.


My only comment is that I thought the child actress was too young. I think a 13 or 14 year old would have been more realistic. Yes, I know the age that girls are getting their periods is getting younger (I have a 12 year old who hasn't gotten it yet) but I think it would have been just as cute if the actress had been a bit older. Although they have been worried about the ad being too 'sexy' with an older kid...

Miss Maszkerádi

@pamb I was one month into being 11 when I got mine. It was also the first day of camp. Ah, the memories.


@pamb I got my period at ten years old. At a rest stop. With my aunt and mother. On my way to a Seventh-Day Adventist Pathfinder (similar to Boy Scouts/Girl Scouts, except coed and religious) Jamboree at a camp in central Arkansas.

Oh ye gods, it was miserable.


@Miss Maszkerádi I was at camp, too! Only I was twelve, and I didn't tell anyone until it happened again b/c it didn't look like *blood* blood and so instead I thought I was dying or something (why I didn't tell anyone that I thought I had, like, vagina cancer or something , I don't know).


@pamb I got my first period in fifth grade, about a month shy of my eleventh birthday.


@pamb I got mine at 14 (woooo late-ish bloomer!), but I think the premise was that she was the *first* one at camp to get it, at least in her age group, so it makes sense that she'd be younger. I was the very last of all my friends to get mine, and 14 really isn't that late.


@Llllauren When I was 11, I got asked to be on the CD to go with an English language textbook (I think they picked me because I had an English accent--there was an American girl there too, and an Australian boy and another English one). I was super excited and convinced it would make me famous (I was not a bright child). Then, the morning of the recording, the floodgates opened. I always get really bad cramps, but the very first ones were completely agonising. And my mum only used tampons, so she had to go next door to ask our neighbour if she had any pads, which she did, but they were huge--I suspect they were incontinence pads. And I had to go to this recording, so my mum gave me some aspirin (which did NOTHING--it's taken me fifteen years to discover the only thing that puts a dent in cramps for me is naproxen) and I spent most of the day faint, bleeding, aching and miserable on the floor of a recording studio with what felt like a pillow stuffed in my knickers, with sound techs occasionally prodding me and making me sing "The Wheels on the Bus".

Bonus lols: The textbook/CD was called "Let's Do It!" and when I listened to it later they'd edited me out of the whole thing.

fondue with cheddar

@pamb I thought the age of the girl was perfect. Not only is she of a realistic age of when girls get their periods, I also love that she's in that awkward big-adult-front-teeth stage where she's part woman but still mostly girl. Which is exactly what getting your period is like.


I got my period about 2 days before my thirteenth birthday. I woke up covered in blood, most people I've told have been like "I thought that was a myth and nobody ever actually got her first period that way!" I think that girls do get their periods younger these days. It used to be 13-14 and now it's more like 11-12. I thought it was really refreshing that it was a younger preteen, and definitely helps to make the idea of having your period desexualized and not connected to standards of femininity. The fact it's an all girls camp underscores that too.

fondue with cheddar

@Ellie My first period was pretty light, thank goodness, but subsequent ones were NONSTOP GOREFEST and have remained that way.

I was lucky in that my best friend got hers a couple months before I did. I would hang out in the bathroom with her while she did her business, so I knew exactly what to expect as far as consistency and all. When I finally got my period it was totally NBD.


It's like Santa for your vagina!

I LOVE this commercial.

fondue with cheddar

My mom gave me pads when I got my first period, but shortly thereafter I went to a picnic where there was swimming and she gave me tampons. It was never a big deal.

But UGH those big, blunt Tampax with the cardboard tube! My mom used ob, but I guess she figured the applicator would be easier for me. It wasn't though, because I didn't put it in far enough and bled on my towel in the car while sitting next to my crush!


@fondue with cheddar I stopped using applicators because they allowed me to insert too far, actually.....Basically? One day, I moved my uterus.

Yup. You heard me. I almost passed out, thought I was dying, and had my mom bring me to urgent care. Was quite the story to share with the other hostesses at Red Lobster, though.

fondue with cheddar

@kasa Yikes, that sounds pretty painful!

I don't like applicators because I feel like I don't have any control. If I use my finger I can feel exactly what I'm doing and I can tell how far in it is. It's so much easier.

I'm Right on Top of that, Rose

I feel weirdly bummed out that dudes wrote this ad. I don't want to feel bummed out about that! I just felt such a connection to this experience, this point in time as a girl growing up, that I assumed whoever wrote it KNEW it, you know? Oh well, at least they did their homework and had Naama there to keep them in line!

Rhinestone Eater@twitter

I like the U by Kotex ad where the woman asks guys on the street to buy her some tampons.

I saw Rich Shydner decades ago, and he did a bit about how he loved to buy his girlfriend's tampons. Other guys were all embarrassed, but he would hold up the box, and say, "I got a womaaaaan! What you got, you got a Playboy? I got a womaaan!"


I'm absolutely a feminist, and I want to use this business to create a locus of girls and women being empowered.Seahawks Snapback Hats

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