Network advertising of "feminine hygiene" products -- like contraceptive ads now -- was taboo until 1975.
The networks' argument against advertising of such personal products as sanitary napkins, tampons and douches, says one advertiser, was much like the current one on contraceptive ads: "They believed it was too sensitive a subject to be talked about over the airwaves. Our reply was that society had progressed beyond that . . . We petitioned the NAB code authority to have the category opened."
Researchers asked people what their interest was in seeing personal products on TV and how offended they would be, compared to products such as mouthwash, toothpaste, underarm deodorants and hemorrhoid preparations.
"We saw there was not any substantial difference in the level of sensitivity," says the advertising executive who asked to remain anonymous to protect his client. Test ads were shown and audience reaction polled confirming wide public acceptance. Based on this evidence, the ban was lifted -- provisionally.
"The ads went on with the provision that if there was too much of a public outcry, the category would be withdrawn. We agreed, because if there was, we wouldn't want to advertise in the face of that anyway. Today, nine years later, these ads are as accepted as soft drink ads or any other category." Last year, he says, over $100 million was spent on sanitary protection advertising, easily 80 percent of this on TV.
Will the ban on network contraceptive advertising be lifted?
"My personal opinion is it will not be in the forseeable future," says this advertising executive.