Why does the modern marketing industry still struggle to talk about intimate health?

By Gordon Glenister

Following their great talk on the Cannes Lions stage with Oscar winning actress and founder of Re-Spin Halle Berry, I caught up with Patricia Corsi, CMO & CIO, Bayer - Consumer Health and Kristen Cavallo, CEO of Mullen Lowe Global to get their views on how we should be more open about these very important topics.


Corsi asks the question: ‘do we see these important issues as a problem, or do we see it as an opportunity’?  For example a recent report highlighted the menopause industry is worth $600bn. We have data that says women are not taking care of themselves and sometimes they simply don’t have the confidence to be able to talk to their doctor. They don’t use words like I have a pain in my vulva or vagina. The taboo only exacerbates the problem and potentially harmful We should include men too as part of the discussion, for example issues around erectile dysfunction as men don’t talk about these problems. We have been in many instances raised not to talk about or told not to talk about these subjects. Cavallo says society declares taboo subjects are shameful and advertising has the power to remove that shame but showing that these are things we ALL suffer with, we want to allow people to talk about their bodies without feeling they are sexualised or made fun of.

Hello world

For us at Bayer Corsi says it makes sense to talk about women’s health because we have a brand that caters for that, but it also excites us to think about what more can we do. It could be a source of immense innovation and ideas that better serves the consumers.  Where I come from in Brazil if businesses don’t do well and a factory closes the whole community is impacted. We need to not lose sight of the problems we are trying to solve, which is women’s self-esteem.

For example, when a woman feels fishy down below, the first thing she thinks about is that she is dirty, she’s promiscuous and everyone around her thinks the same. So she doesn’t talk about it and therefore doesn’t get treatment. This is exactly what we wanted to tackle with our Mermaid Canesten campaign. All our products are over the counter so you don’t need prescriptions. 

There was an instance recently on social media where a man bought one of our products and shared it on social media, suggesting it was a dirty product with a horrible sentiment, but his post backfired because everyone went onto the post and as much said ‘shame on you’. Trevor Noah recently said when someone calls you a Pussy it should be a compliment, it’s the most powerful thing on earth because it gives birth.

The interesting thing here is Cavallo remarks, is that you suggested that I am going to say a bad word before saying Pussy.  Corsi says maybe now but in some cultures, I might be considered cursing and I want to be sensitive to that. My objective here is to give clarity and visibility as we are putting meaning and context to words that actually don’t belong there.


We don’t use celebrities on most of our campaigns because health is something that affects us all.


I think having a panel discussion that involved a major celebrity definitely brought a wider audience.  We didn’t get much foresight on the questions before but actually when we talk about things we believe in, we don’t need a script.


Cavallo says 50% of women’s pain goes undiagnosed or not completed. If we go back in time and if women complained about menopause, it was considered hysteria and she was institutionalised.


Men have a part to play and can minimize women’s pain and in fact we need men across the board, who are husbands, fathers, sons but we also need doctors to listen and ask the right questions so that you can draw the information out of the woman in a way that she doesn’t feel embarrassed or ashamed.