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The first menstrual period can be very stressful for some girls. As it happened to Katie in the TV commercial, “First Moon Party,” by HelloFlo, which advertises a menstruation starter kit. The story is about Katie, a girl who wants her period so badly that fakes it. In her desperation to become a lady, she lies to her friends about getting her first menstrual period. Katie’s mother, knowing that she was lying, decided to teach Katie a lesson by throwing a first menstruation-themed party. This period starter kit commercial engages and empowers the viewers to accept the idea that menstruation is not a forbidden subject, and it also creates a sense of desire in the mind of a target audience persuading them to buy the product.
The “First Moon Party” commercial portrays menstruation as what it is, a natural process that all girls are experiencing or will experience. Unfortunately, this subject is full of erroneous beliefs and misconceptions. Many people are not well informed, and they do not feel comfortable to inform themselves about menstruation. The commercial portrays the lack of information in society and how men are usually misinformed. For example, Katie’s mother’s co-worker brings a super pack of coffee filters, and he states that he wasn’t sure what brand she likes. Also, two male teenagers, who are “the band,” congratulate Katie on her birthday while stating “this is weirdest birthday party ever.” According to the article, “Preparing Girls for Menstruation: Recommendation from Adolescent Girls,” written by the Professor of Psychology, Elissa Koff and Clinical Psychologist, Jill Rierdan, “Girls, who have been menstruating for one or three years, have had the need to feel supported emotionally and to be informed. They do not like to feel that menstruation is something abnormal and unhealthy, bad, frightening or shameful. Most of the girls discussed it only with their mothers because they felt uncomfortable discussing the subject with their father. Other girls wish fathers were more supportive but quiet, and some girls believed that fathers should not be included in the process (paragraph 1).” Basically, the authors are supporting that some parents have difficulty talking about the subject with their children, men are usually not involved, and the subject is not treated normally during childhood. Consequently, the commercial tries to make a change in society’s perception by acknowledging how girls experience puberty in real life, and it encourages openness for communication within families while considering new ideas.
The HelloFlo’s commercial applied different hidden meanings to persuade the audience. It tries to modify their beliefs or ideas to achieve the communication between parents and their children about the process of transition from childhood to adolescence. Every culture has a different way of approaching the subject with their kids and some do not even talk openly. The commercial portrays in a relatable and satirical way how Katie does not communicate with her mother about her desire to become a lady, and the anxiety of being compared to her other friends. It also portrays how the mother waited too long to explain how some girls develop at different times, and that it is normal to wait longer than others. To illustrate, the mother found a stained pad with “rubylicious” nail polish, and when she questioned Katie, she answered with an outspoken tone “What do you think it is? I’m on my ladies’ days.” Also, at the end of the commercial, it portrays an older guy holding a ketchup bottle, upside down, saying with an assertive tone “sometimes you just gotta wait.” While the audience is looking at the commercial, they move to the paradigmatic level, meaning that they replace the idea, “will talk later,” for a new idea, “not to wait too long to talk about it.” The new idea is in the same context because it fulfills the same function as the old idea. Thus, is suggest the period starter kit is the perfect tool that will help initiate “The Talk” at an earlier time.
Assuredly, the “First Moon Party” commercial portrays how some cultures have celebrations related to the arrival of puberty, and in some of them, all members of the family are invited. This target audience is persuaded to buy the product because it endorses the first menstruation party as a cultural code, which is closely connected to the members of those particular cultures. For example, the commercial portrays how Katie’s friends and family (her mother, father, and grandfather) are part of the celebration. Therefore, it persuades this target audience to buy the period starter kit as a gift for the next celebration. This is in contrast to other target audience who will accommodate the cultural code that is advertised in the commercial. Despite the audience’s own beliefs, they will give the green light to the main idea because the humoristic appeals will shift their social values and morals. For example, the commercial portrays male individuals through uncommon scenarios: Katie’s grandfather shows up with a gift and great joy, and Katie’s father who gets out of the cake wearing a red morph suit representing the menstrual period. Therefore, it persuades men to form a new concept related to menstruation and be more supportive of their daughters or other females in their family.
HelloFlow uses semiotics to create meaningful communication. As we already know, the commercial is based on the subject of menstruation. Semiotics is used in the commercial though elements with figurative meanings such as clothes, backgrounds, games, and colors. For example, the connotation of the red color, which is almost in every scene: red balloons and streamers, red bracelet, red dress, red chocolate fountain, red headpiece, and red morph suit, represents Katie’s “new flow”. The images are well-crafted and have a very strong connotative meaning such as a woman who is wearing tampons as earrings and eats marshmallows covered with melted red chocolate. But also, it uses scenes with strong meaning where denotation (the primary meaning) is very literal. For instance, Katie gets very frustrated during the party and confessed to her mother that she faked her period. She was expecting to get grounded, but instead, she gets a period starter kit, with the HelloFlo brand on it, as a gift. Her mother states that she already knew because “periods don’t have glitter in them.” Therefore, with the constant, repetitive display of red color in addition to the product and the brand being shown at the end of the commercial, the message stays in the back of the viewer’s mind.
The characters in the commercial are seen as funny and real. They persuade people to be open-minded about the subject. If people act the same way as the characters, they will feel “cool” or appropriate for this generation. The commercial employs scenes and expressions to allow viewers to get inside of the characters’ thoughts and feelings. For instance, Katie’s mother explains her thoughts and ideas with craftiness and in such a natural way that it makes many mothers feel identified with the character. Thus, making everyday situations more relatable to the audience.
Humor appeal is one of the advertising strategies that HelloFlo uses in its commercial. It uses humor to associate the subject with moments of laughter and everyday life situations. Therefore, it makes the product more attractive. It tries to make the target audience think how funny and unique the commercial is perceiving good feelings about the product. It also portrays what some girl experience during puberty and how relatable the competition with other girls is, in a very funny way. For instance, at the beginning of the commercial, after Katie explains with a disappointed tone “Jenny got it, then stupid Vicky got it,” she starts praying and trying inner thigh exercises; she feels jealous and feels that she does not fit in with her friends anymore because she can be part of the “Cherry Slush Club” yet. These funny scenes will make people consider the main concept with a different perception. Martin Eisend; Professor of International Marketing, Julia Plagemann and Julia Solwedell agree in their article “Gender Roles and Humor in Advertising: The Occurrence of Stereotyping in Humorous and Nonhumorous Advertising and Its Consequences for Advertising Effectiveness” when they write “humor occurs when it contrasts with expectations by defying social norms through nontraditional stereotypical depictions which imply changes in stereotypes” (paragraph 9). Meaning that commercials disregard the social or cultural expectations in order to make it original and eye-catching. This commercial is loaded with funny and unusual phrases such as: “do you know how hard is to find a uterus piñata?” “What are you doing? You are missing the Vagician!” “I just didn’t expect my mom to be such a freak,” “Grandpa is bobbing for ovaries like a champ.” Therefore, it captures the audience’s attention because the commercial is very funny, and the humorous messages are easy to decode.
This period starter kit commercial persuades viewers to remove menstruation taboo and its manipulations, thus everyone can see it as a natural process without feeling embarrassed or guilty. At the same time, it also persuades the audience to buy the period starter kit because the persuasion that HelloFlo uses creates an association between an issue that girls and parents are experiencing and a product. But it also makes the audience believe that using the period starter kit will have a beneficial effect on the communication between parents and daughters and will be the perfect “gift before the gift.”
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