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The Vagisil Factor

by Guest Blogger, Lena West, Chief Social Media Strategist at xynoMedia

I'm not sure how I get away with it, but most of my posts to this blog are not directly related to marketing to women -- per se -- I'll chalk that up to having a rockin' editor <wink>. But, this post is different...Vagisil

Note: if you are a male (or female, for that matter) and you're sensitive about even the smallest hint of  talk about "women's bodies", you might want to check out now...

Gone? Ok, let's get on with it...

Let me start by saying that I think the U.S. (and other countries, too, but the U.S. is where I reside so I'll stick to what I know) says it values and respects women, but if you look even slightly below the surface, it's patently clear that as a country, community and consumers, we don't.

Case in point...Vagisil.

Vagisil is a feminine hygeine product; let's just say that their products help address concerns of a feminine nature and leave it at that.

They have a commercial in which some of the many challenges that women have with their bodies are portrayed in a very negative light. They even go so far as to show an attractive woman looking at a "reflection" of herself in the mirror, only the reflection is not an accurate representation of her. In reality, she's dressed in a smart sweater set and skirt, but how she sees herself in the mirror when she's having "feminine problems" is someone dressed in baggy, lifeless clothing - who appears damn-near homeless. Talk about feeding into and promoting the self image issues that already plague many women.

They then go on to attempt to show that Vagisil is the solution for this "homeless", "vagabond" self-esteem problem.  Ja, ja, ja, right. *humph*  But, here's what takes the cake:

The tagline promoted in the commercial is:

100% woman. 100% of the time.

So, what exactly are you trying to tell women here? That the minute we experience perfectly NORMAL health challenges with our bodies - because, oh...we give BIRTH, we have different HORMONES, we have a MENSTRUAL cycle (yeah, I said it!) -  that we're homeless, shells of women?

I can't speak for all women, but if you want ME to purchase your product don't send me the message that normal health issues make me less than a woman ANY percentage of the time.

Bottomline: Some people might say that this is just a commercial, but to me, it's these kinds of nuanced, underhanded, slick, borderline subliminal messages that companies fold into their marketing and advertising that chip away at the collective self-esteeem and perceived worth of women -- and I won't have any of it.

Have you ever seen an ad or a commercial that made you think, "what exactly are you trying to say, here?" What was it?


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Lena West


You are absolutely right! Someone SHOULD do a commercial that depicts men with ED, not as virile studs who can hit a golf ball 500 yards, but as a puny punk that should be tossed out with the trash...let's see what happens with that!


That commercial was HIGH-larious. Thanks for sharing it. I did laugh out loud...with men, bigger is always better. If he were my guy, I would ask him: "Now, just what are you trying to say???" ;)


I agree with you - most advertising is meant to shock, but it really ends up offending people and putting them off. The creative is stale and GEICO is kicking everyone's butt in terms of original creative.


Yes! There should be an agency that combines your idea with Mary's - preview the commercials and then create counter-commercials that aim their barbs at men instead of women.

Thanks for reading and commenting everyone! I'm glad this post sparked a "roar" :)


Mary Schmidt

Hmmmm...and this brings to mind - how the Viagra and Cialis commercials would appear if they used the same approach. And, the godawful blow-back that would happen. Me? Not 100% Man All The Time?

Here's hoping somebody (with more time than me) decides to do a YouTube video of THAT "Man's commercial!" ;-)

I also agree that we really don't need commercials on everything - including ED. And, really by the time they finish reading all the side effects of any of the drugs...who would want to chance them?

Sabine C

Hello ladies,

I couldn't agree more with your post about the Vagisil ad. Being from Europe, I haven't seen it, but I can only imagine...

Marketing-to-women 101: please don't portray us as "not coping" with life (or our bodies). Surely they could have thought of 100 other "creative" (and positive!) ways of addressing this topic???

I found an ad for tampons that I really liked. It's funny and I betcha EVERY woman who sees it will be able to relate to it without being offended.

Have a look here:

Keep up the good work!

Love from the other side of the pond


Beyond Niche Marketing

It seems like the goal lately of advertising is to offend, as if offensive ads are more effective. In a way, they have a point.

I'm a DVR user and the other day I was watching television and the aforementioned ad lead the hit parade of commercials. So, I rewound to the end of the last commercial break and re-watched that segment of the program. When I finished that segment, I returned the live TV AND LO AND BEHOLD they were still in the same commercial break. More ads than programming... is is any wonder advertisers have to go to the extreme to get attention!

Terri Maurer

Seems that all commercials and advertisements about women's products ought to be screened by women before they are released, doesn't it? I also agree that what the world needs less of...if 'any''s ED commercials and those promising to 'grow a certain part of the male anatomy'. Puleeeze! What do you suppose the odds are of an interviewer finding half a dozen guys...with their wives or significant others...on the streets of any town willing to talk about these products and admitting they use them?

Lena West


You and my Dad feel the same way about the ED commercials. He says that some things just should not be allowed to have television ads. I just LOVE the new ads for ExtenZe. That's gotta be nice to try to explain to a 5 year old.


Yes! Don't you just want to run right out and get Botox because the thin woman in white thinks that "parentheses have a place, just not on your face"? NOT! Barf. I'm all for doing whatever you need to do (within reason) to make yourself feel and look better, but that commercial sucks. The can take a lesson or two from the folks at Dove.


I've seen this commercial and I, too, thought it sent the message to "keep your bad ass kids at home". Wow. Isn't it nice to know it's not just you?!

Thanks to all for reading and commenting!


Sundi D. Hayes

Have you seen the recent ad for feminine protection with the cute, skinny, peppy, cheerleaders who are supposedly protected? As if they need it more then the quiet, healthy, studious type in the front row of any given classroom?

How about the deodorant-for-girls commercial with them on the amusement park ride? Talk about an "OMG" moment! Humf!

Thank goodness I have three boys but I feel for my neices. Regardless, I don't think there should even be commercials for some types of products. Why should I have to explain to my ten-year-old what ED is while we watch a Harry Potter marathon on TV? I think we've made great strides on grading programming but the commercials should have to meet similar and time-wise guidelines!

Ardith Lowell

Dare I make mention of cosmetic surgery advertising? Many thanks as usual, Lena. Ardith


recently, it was nationwide insurance's 'Bank Brat' commercial. I wrote about it here:

People thought I was reading too much into things, but I still think there is an underlying message to the commercial against working moms.

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