December 13, 2021

Unfiltered: How to run taboo-busting campaigns with honesty and integrity

Mental health, hidden disabilities, taboo bodily functions, everyday discrimination… the more we see of other people’s experience, the more able we feel to speak about our own. 

People are more socially, environmentally and ethically conscious than ever before. They want to open up the conversation and they expect brands to speak up on issues that matter, too.

“Audiences are becoming more open and frank,” says creative Bee Pahnke. “Brands have a choice: move forward with changing societal expectations, or stick with sanitised language and get left behind.”

But speaking up isn’t just a matter of staying culturally and commercially relevant. Brands have tremendous potential to tackle issues through their social media platforms. This can help to shed light on taboo subjects and drive change. Influencer marketing is a powerful tool in this regard. Working with influencers can make your campaign personal and identifiable, building a real affinity for your audience.

However, your campaign needs to align authentically with your brand. Social media users are discerning, and they’re quick to sniff out any hint of fakery or virtue signalling. So when you’re embarking on any kind of awareness-raising campaign, it’s important to stay true to yourself and open to real dialogue.

The Brave Bison JAPAC team worked with Kimberley Clarke in Singapore this year to help harness authenticity and creatively tackling the taboo subject of menstrual hygiene.

Unfiltered: talking about menstruation with Kotex

Menstruation is considered taboo in societies all over the world. This can make it particularly difficult for young girls to get the information they need. The COVID-19 pandemic has only made it harder, increasing feelings of stigma and isolation and restricting access to support sources outside the home.

For Menstrual Hygiene Day 2021, Brave Bison partnered with global feminine care brand Kotex. The aim was to build a campaign for women by women that would empower girls and break through the stigma. With a female director and an all-female production crew, Unfiltered engaged six young influencers aged 11 to 14 to have a frank conversation about periods.

This campaign was successful partly because it was authentic for everyone involved. Gender equality is a core value for us at Brave Bison. Caroline Campbell is our Executive Vice President and Managing Director for Japan and Asia Pacific.

Campaign Asia named her one of its 40 Women to Watch for 2020, in part due to her commitment to diversity. And Kotex has a fifty-year record at the forefront of menstrual education programmes, such as the She Can initiative.

Another campaign that the BB team are proud to have worked on is the Every Skin Colour Glows campaign with J&J.

Every Skin Colour Glows: celebrating diversity with Johnson and Johnson

Clean and Clear is one of Johnson and Johnson’s best-known skincare brands, and it’s especially popular with young women. Johnson and Johnson wanted to use their considerable platform to tackle skin tone discrimination in one of their biggest markets: India. Skin tone discrimination is still prevelant in many Indian communities. Together with Brave Bison and YouTube creator Sejal Kumar, they launched Every Skin Colour Glows. 


This campaign centred the experience of young Indian women, and that’s why it was such a success. Sejal’s engagement with her audience and her commitment to fighting discrimination raised the discussion to another level This ensured that the people at the heart of the initiative felt both seen and heard.

Real voices, real concerns

Launching a taboo-busting campaign might seem like an excellent publicity strategy. And it is – but only if your brand has the insight, and the platform, to do it in the first place.

Take Volvo’s Night Walk campaign. Because personal safety is one of their key brand values, it felt right when they stepped up to support women in reclaiming the streets. In the same way, their E.V.A. campaign expresses their long-standing commitment to women’s safety.

People will soon sense if you’ve picked a particular cause for the sake of making an impact. This is why it’s important to know what you stand for, but also to listen.

To understand your audience and embrace the issues that matter to them. One way to ensure authenticity is to use real people, real experiences and to work with like-minded influencers – such as Sejal Kumar. It also only works if your agency aligns with your values, shares your empathy for your audience and also passionately wants to be part of the change.

Brave Bison is proud to play a small part on a local and regional level in the challenging of taboos with these globally recognised and loved brands. Our team is committed to partnering with diverse rosters of talent and crews while championing inclusive practices and behaviours internally.

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