When we first looked at #Wombstories and how many incredible names went into creating it, we instantly thought: "damn, this is good. Like, Award-good."
Having a male magazine editor doesn't help with saying this, so we'll borrow a few words from the interview below: sometimes being a woman can actually be pretty shit. Pay gaps, discrimination, gender stereotypes and a patriarchal society all add up to the bill, not to mention that little thing called womb.
Libresse (or Bodyform in the UK) was already known for its Viva La Vulva campaign from last year, but they decided to kick it up another notch with #Wombstories, a compelling film by Chelsea Pictures, Framestore and AMVBBDO that advocates for "womb stories to be heard."
Needless to say, we wanted to get Behind the Idea. We reached out to AMVBBDO executive creative directors Nadja Losgott and Nicholas Hulley, as well as director Nisha Ganatra (basically N&N&N), to hear the 'story behind the wombstories' directly from them. And boy, if it is a great one to hear.
What was the brief?
Nadja&Nick: Libresse/Bodyform’s mission is to push against the taboos and stigmas that hold women back when it comes to their intimate health. It is a truth-telling journey. The brief, at its simplest, was to continue to push against these taboos and misrepresentations, but this time dive even deeper under women’s skin and embrace their intimate experiences more holistically. Because our periods and what happens in our wombs are not just a biological or physiological thing, they are a complex emotional and human relationship that we have with our bodies. But we are taught to minimise or even never talk about these profound experiences, and this vicious circle of silence has a very damaging impact on our wellbeing.
How did the initial pitch/brainstorming phase go?
N&N: Creatively we wanted to find a way to bring diverse and underrepresented experiences to life in an interesting and bold way. Our North star was telling the truth, that sometimes periods or being a woman can actually be pretty shit. We also wanted to balance the devastating truth with the beauty. The ups and the downs. While trying to find a way of doing this we thought of anthropomorphising wombs and almost looking into a window of this secret life. Creating beautiful little worlds and characters (or womb-dwellers as we call them) that told the outside story but on a deeper, more emotionally visceral level, rather than a logical one. It made us laugh imagining everybody’s different personalities and the stories they held. And we knew there could be magic in creating beauty in the otherworldly spheres.
We wrote the script (and wrote and wrote and then rewrote) and built a visual bible of what was in our heads to explain to Martina and Tanja (our clients), who loved it.
Then of course we continued exploring and elaborating with Nisha, who we clicked with from the minute we spoke to her on the phone. And her treatment had this raw emotion and beauty that jumped off the page and into our hearts. It was both funny and poignant.
Nisha: This project was really special from the start because everyone at Chelsea was excited and invested in this film. We found ourselves talking endlessly about the possibilities and the breadth of our experiences was not lost on any of us. Together, we created a treatment that tried to capture what we experienced in our initial conversations. Truly, the heartache, the joy, the devastation, the anger - it is never simple. And we all came together from the start in service of this greater vision and responsibility. I feel that the highly collaborative nature of the process really shows in the final film - and that, to me, is a triumph.
Tell us more about the concept. Why was it the right choice?
N&N: Conceptually we just wanted to find a creative way to tell all these complex stories. Diving inside the womb and creating worlds and characters out of them felt like such a unique and inventive way of telling stories. It got us really excited. We could imagine people finding a way to describe their wombs and experiences in visuals and rooms and characters with personality as well as just talk about their hidden experiences more openly. We knew it could be beautiful and funny and devastating and we knew we could add power onto screen with something that hadn’t been seen before.
Nisha: The concept was bold and unique. No one had ever dared to go into a womb before as far as I know. And the idea of mixing not just animation and live action - but different styles of animation and live action – that was what felt both incredibly true to the stories we endeavored to tell and not like a gimmick. It was necessary to communicating the right feeling and the story - and that’s how I knew it was going to work from the start.
What was the production process like? What was the biggest challenge?
N&N: Nisha brought such an authenticity of experience to the directing. And a beautiful rawness. Elise Butt had to cut the film in such an emotional and rhythmic way, with simple storyboard stills in place of animation. The challenge of fitting the animation into the part of the edit to create the whole, getting the timing right before and while it was being created was also a challenge. Hoping, praying and planning with Framestore, Sharon Locke and all the artists, that it would all work together and give us individually in the stories and beats the emotion that we needed overall.
The trickiest thing was probably whittling the imagery down in the edit to find a way to tell the stories in the most succinct way, without losing the amount of subjects we wanted to touch on and without making an hour long film.
That and making a plasticine figure’s boobs dance.
Nisha: The production process was a dream - creatively and also physically. We hired as many women as possible and had a very diverse cast and crew. The bold artists on both sides of the camera made it a really joyful creative expression. I truly laughed until tears, I cried tears – oh wait, this is sounding like such a stereotype of women and all the tears. Hmmm. Strike all that. It was a brilliant experience for many reasons that will remain our secret magic sauce. Not just because we had to figure out how to get into and out of the womb - into and out of animation - how to balance the comedy and the tragedy, and mostly importantly, how a water birth works exactly. Because none of us really knew, and now we are practically certified in labor and delivery water births.
What’s the main message of the campaign and why does it matter?
N&N: While our lives are never simple, the message hopefully is: all of our unspoken, unseen and unknown wombstories need to be heard. And they need to be heard for our health and our mental wellbeing.
You can only care for your body and enjoy your body if you know about your body. And you can only know about it if it is not taboo terrain.
It’s important to shatter the myth of the single, simplistic narrative we are taught. If that’s the only story we are allowed to tell we hide the reality of so much more. It takes us longer to get to treatments. It makes us feel there is something wrong with choices outside that narrative. And it prevents us from sharing as a way of coping and healing.
Nisha: What Nadja and Nick said. Really it’s all about shame and breaking the things that try to keep shame alive wide open. Because shame is something that motivates the most painful of behaviours and if we can shatter that feeling in women, in men, in people -- we will all be better for it.
Why will the final assets resonate with consumers?
N&N: Hopefully the visceral and pictorial nature of the short film gives people a way of expressing something they didn’t have words for before. And hopefully it will remind people of who they are and what they are capable of.
And because we portray the experience of having a womb in an emotional way - rather than a biological way - hopefully people can connect to it emotionally rather than rationally, which is always more powerful.
And people understand that there is fragility and power in sharing our unseen and unheard wombstories.
Nisha: Because it is based on truth and because we do not shy away from the myriad of emotions. That will always be what resonates with audiences, I think. Truthfulness of story and emotion and empathy.
What is one unique fact about the campaign that will help it cut through?
N&N: Research and boundless imagination. Even though it is animated the authenticity of what has been captured, cuts through as pure truth telling.
Nisha: Agreed. Research. Boldness. Boundless imaginations. Collaboration of a diverse group of artists. And the confidence of AMVBBDO to take risks and break boundaries.
How long did it take from inception to delivery?
N&N: Creative briefing was in March 2019 and we presented in April. We then had a bunch of global research for a few months. And eventually got the lovely Nisha and the rest of the incredible production team on board in November. We shot in the last week of December and had finished the campaign by March 2020.
What do you hope it achieves for the brand?
N&N: The company’s mission for many years now has been to break down taboos. We hope that wombstories, and getting people to speak openly about theirs, is another milestone in this journey.
So for the brand, we hope it continues to be seen as outstandingly empathetic. And it inspires brand love in people.
Nisha: World Domination, of course. Truly though I have really loved seeing all the messages on social media about how many people have dropped their current products and switched to BodyForm because of this ad. Women have been so historically underrepresented and I love seeing a company rewarded for taking a chance on breaking taboos. For giving women a true representation. I love that our viewers are saavy and understand that buying this product is a vote for more ads like this. And when a company pushes the envelope so far ahead – they really cause everyone else to move with them, by leading the way so fearlessly.
How satisfying is it to see it out there after so much hard work?
N&N: It’s been so incredible to see the positive reaction, to see to it and how deeply people are connecting with it and how they are seeing themselves. We are all thrilled and touched by how it’s uncovered something in people that has been hidden for so long. The outpouring of people sharing their own wombstories on social, and seeing how cathartic that has been for people, has been inspiring.
Nisha: This is one of the most satisfying projects I have had the pleasure of making. All due to the incredible artists involved. None of us can say “This is mine! I made this!”. It truly belongs to all of us and to the world.