There's Really No Good Way to Advertise Douching Products

Summer's Eve has released controversial new ads. How could it not?

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Summer's Eve has released a controversial series of commercials with a talking hand meant to symbolize a vagina--"your verticle smile," in the ad's words. Also, the ad employs dated ethnic stereotypes--encouraging black women, for example, to be as attentive to their genitals as they are to their hair. The ads follow last year's poorly-received commercials that implied that one should always douche before asking the boss for a raise. Lots of people are annoyed by the ads, but is there any way to advertise a product that's, on it's own, outdated yet guaranteed to get attention because it has something to do with vaginas?

Gawker's Maureen O'Connor is amused that Summer's Eve takes a premise that's "preposterous enough already"--"talking vagina hands"--and adds some racially problematic content, such as "a thong-wearing Mexican vagina says 'ay-yi-yi' and rants in rapid-fire Spanish." Behold:
But O'Connor concedes, "With a product as inherently ridiculous as specialized cooter soap, Summer's Eve ads are necessarily destined for ridiculousness. But this racially stereotyped vagina hand campaign really steps it up to the next level, awfulness-wise! Good job refusing to rest on your lemony-fresh laurels, Summer's Eve."
Indeed, the campaign is part of a concerted effort not to rest on said laurels. Adweek's Tim Nudd explains that Summer's Eve went on "an apologetic nationwide 'listening tour'" after the douche-for-a-raise fiasco, and ad-maker The Richards Group has created these spots as a result. AdRants quotes Summer's Eve's marketing director Angela Bryant insisting that it's time to be more blunt when talking about genital soap, because "many media outlets won't even allow the use of the word vagina in advertising." So Summer's Eve set out to make commercials "about empowerment, changing the way women may think of the brand, and removing longstanding stigmas."
Other new ads insist all of civilization was created by the pursuit of a female anatomical feature, or feature a talking cat that urges the use of "vaginal" as a replacement for "awesome." Nudd says the commercials are "a decent step forward," because, "whether or not the world needs douching products, it certainly doesn't need archaic and insulting advice for when to use them."
But Feministing’s Maya says it's stupid to insist a soap has anything to do with "empowerment." And Nicole Cliffe writes at The Hairpin that it's no surprise "that douche manufacturers... have resorted to weird, freaky ads involving the power of the vagina to shape history, because dying industries sometimes need to burn the village to save it, right? Men ain't buying watches, women ain't buying separate products for their gross vaginas."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.