It’s Friday night, and Naama Bloom is talking about periods.
“I just refreshed YouTube, and we’ve hit 8.9 million.”
She’s been talking—and thinking—a lot about periods. Last week, her company Hello Flo released its second video, “First Moon Party,” in which a girl lies about getting her period and, in a dazzling display of one-upmanship, is thrown an elaborate period party by her mom. I don’t think I’m alone in saying I wish I’d had one, because there’s a “vagician” and blood-red fondue.
As of this writing, the video has received more than 15 million views, a majority of which likely came from adult women. Some of them perhaps didn’t have much in the way of education or guidance when they were girls. We still see commercials in which an alien blue water douses an innocent maxi pad, a vulgar display of product. “First Moon Party” features a relatable young girl secretly decorating a maxi pad with glitter-red nail polish, accidentally crafting this mark of womanhood into the shape of Florida.
This tampon commercial perfectly captures the awkwardness of puberty
Hello Flo started as a subscription service for care packages, which offer girls options like a period starter kit and summer camp kit, as well as postpartum kits for new mothers. Curious parties can personalize and order online, and Bloom says she also wants to focus on kits for menopause, to cover different chapters in women’s lives.
Bloom got the idea from an underwear and toiletries subscription service for men called Manpacks, and she thought about the female equivalent of something she’d need to buy once a month. A friend with an 11-year-old daughter offered insight into the talks and grocery store runs that happen around that age, and Bloom wanted to turn the experience into something empowering for girls.
When she launched the business in 2013, she had younger girls in mind as the demographic and smartly pinpointed the one girl who gets her period before the rest, or knows more than the rest, and imparts what she’s seen beyond the red door to the ladies in waiting.
“First Moon Party” follows up last summer’s inaugural hit, “The Camp Gyno,” in which a girl away at summer camp becomes a sort of menstrual soothsayer, and compares herself to Joan of Arc.
Both videos were written and directed by Pete Marquis and Jamie McCelland, creative partners at an NYC ad agency. For “The Camp Gyno,” they had the titular joke, after a dinner party discussion with Bloom about summer camp and periods. Then, as McCelland relates, “We had to figure out what the hell a Camp Gyno was.”
“We knew we didn’t want to make any video with blue liquid in it,” McCelland recalls. “Or even a parody of an ad with blue liquid. That stuff had been done before, so we wanted to just go in with a clean slate and tell a story the way we’d want to hear it. Then we just tried to make each other laugh some more.”
As for “First Moon Party,” McCelland says they weren’t trying to convey any particular message, more that “tricky time of life, when everything your mom does is embarrassing.”
“We imagined it’s hard for a mom to deal with a daughter who’s starting to push away and thinks she knows everything,” McCelland says. “You could argue it’s much healthier to keep an open, honest line of communication and be on the same page with your kid, and we’d personally agree. We’re not saying you should throw a first moon party for your angsty tween daughter. But isn’t it nice, as a parent, to know you could?”
Marquis’s not exactly sure why millions are sharing the clip.
“This week, it was our video about periods next to Jimmy Fallon riding a rollercoaster, next to an absolutely fascinated lion staring at a butterfly,” he says. “The Internet is a weird place.That’s part of the beauty of it.”
The advantage of Internet advertising is you don’t always have to feature the product. In Hello Flo’s ads, you’re not being beat over the head with ever-shrinking neon-wrapped tampons. The company’s promos are about female interactions and experiences we don’t often see in TV spots.
Dialogue about periods is now happening on social media. Bloom points me to the hashtag #periodprobs (as well as #periodproblems), a collection of young women and girls screaming into the digital void about their periods, as well as making memes about them.
When your pad feels uncomfortable and you’re siting there like #periodproblemsNight #periodproblems pic.twitter.com/Yq5K8yItHF
— Ally ☽ (@l0l_pizza) April 8, 2014
Hello Flo is becoming another channel for that dialogue. The company partnered with Procter & Gamble and Always for “First Moon Party,” a big step for a year-old startup, and a way to pair with TV brands perhaps looking for that dialogue.
“I would like to think my little company is making some progress and destigmatizing words,” Bloom says, “but I was on NPR recently, and said the word vagina multiple times, and when it aired it was not in there. And that’s NPR. So I don’t know if they’d fly on TV. I’d like to believe we live in a world where one day they can.”
I ask about Bloom’s daughter, who’s five. She’s already asking about tampons and periods, so she’s probably going to be the girl at camp who already knows everything.
“She will for sure be the camp gyno.”
Photo via Hello Flo/YouTube