Over the last number of months, Playtex has been getting quite the attention for it’s “Fresh + Sexy Wipes”. But it is the kind of attention that probably isn’t going to encourage women to love the brand, at least not any woman who knows a little bit about her vaginal health. “Fresh + Sexy Wipes” are basically baby wipes that couples can use to “clean” themselves before and after sex.
For those not familiar with the campaign, the flack it’s getting has much to do with a series of ads whose messaging suggests that the vagina is dirty, and in need of continual maintenance, especially when it comes to sex. On the other hand, it is also a campaign that was created to reach out to a market not normally reached by Platex, men. But, is this really the way we want men to be brought into the conversation? Through sexualized discourse that promotes sex as a victory and the vagina as something that continually needs improvement?
To top it all off, Playtex enlisted Andrew W. K. as the official “Fresh + Sexy Wipes” spokesperson. What woman doesn’t dream about nights with a man like Andrew W. K? A man who parties hard and whose Party Hard Philosophy only applies to those who don’t have full-time jobs (did I mention he is a motivational speaker?). Yes, we should all do what we enjoy as well as give our all for the things we love, but I doubt Andrew’s philosophy could actually work outside of a rock and roll lifestyle.
What’s more, the campaign echoes past hygienic vaginal discourses that encouraged women to continually be cautious about their smelly and dirty vagina (Ahem… Lysol ads). The discourse in the “Fresh + Sexy Wipes” ads lend to a negative historical discourse with suggestive ad copy that reads: “A clean beaver always finds more wood.”, “A clean peach always gets picked.”, “A polished knob always gets more turns.” and “A clean pecker always taps it.”.
Basically, if you use these “Fresh + Sexy Wipes” you are always going to get laid.
This suggestive discourse is highly fueled by phallocentrism, encourages the objectification of women’s bodies and treats the act of sex as one women and men can achieve so long as they follow a prescribed cultural code laid out by Playtex.
The Group Marketing Director who led the creative on the campaign, Erik Rahner, said this about why such a product is even necessary to market:
“Sex isn’t always a planned event that can be prepared for. With Fresh + Sexy wipes, couples now have a way to be clean and ready for even the most spontaneous moments. They can be ready for intimacy whenever – and wherever – the mood strikes.”
The main question I have for Mr. Rahner is, what did people do before Playtex gave us the option of this all too important product?
Were we all just having dirty sex?
I’m curious as to whether there was any market research that went into this campaign. If there had been, and the response to these wipes was positive, there is concern for how much understanding men and women have about the vagina. Most women know the dangers of douching, and likewise the dangers of putting scented products in or near the vagina. Any doctor would recommend that when it comes to vaginal health, you stay away from anything scented, especially disposable wipes that contain traces of chemicals that can irritate the sensitive tissues around the vagina.
The campaign sends a very strong message about vaginal health and to some extend penal health. Basically, cleaning “it” is essential to a happy (and better) sex life. What’s more it appears that with the help of Andrew W.K. the campaign is encouraging a lifestyle that may not result in a healthy ending, just a good time, with the promise of well… only sex.
From a marketing standpoint is the ad campaign “good”. I’d have to say yet, but it is accurate? No! Does it promote positive talk about sex and women’s health? Again, probably not.
Yet, even with all this being said, couples will probably buy into this discourse. Sex can be messy and the idea of having something easily accessible to “freshen” you up, is appealing. However, ladies (and men) it’s important you know that the vagina is self-cleaning and good vaginal hygiene isn’t too hard to obtain with just water and old fashion fragrance-free soap.