Frida, the five-year-old company that makes products for babies and new moms, doesn't shy away from taboo. Its best-selling products deal with common but rarely discussed baby ailments, such as clogged nostrils (Frida Baby's "Snotsucker") and gas or constipation (Frida Baby's "Windi").
Some of Frida's marketing is apparently too taboo for the Oscars, however. The company's latest advertisement, for products for new moms aimed at post-birth recovery, was recently rejected by ABC after being submitted for play during the Academy Awards that aired on February 9. Frida's CEO was shocked.
"I'm incredulous!" Frida founder and chief executive Chelsea Hirschhorn told Inc. "It was more of a shock because over the past 18 months we'd done so much evangelizing and forwarding the conversation over the delicate transition women's bodies go through--I thought we'd reached a cultural momentum on the issue."
The issue at hand is the representation of a woman's postpartum body and the care it requires. In the ad, a new mom turns on the light in the middle of the night, hears her baby waking, and ventures to the bathroom--a slow and painful process that includes washing with a hospital-issued squirt bottle. The ad shows postpartum curves of the woman's body.
Frida's product line for new moms is the subject of the ad, which the company says was rejected by ABC because of guidelines set by the Academy for Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. The guidelines prohibit, according to an email ABC sent Frida late last week that was shared with Inc.: "political candidates/positions, religious or faith-based message/position, guns, gun shows, ammunition, feminine hygiene products, adult diapers, condoms or hemorrhoid remedies." ABC has not responded to a request for confirmation or comment.
Since the rejection, though, Frida has taken its ad, which has been online since July 30, 2019, and reposted it with a message: "The ad you're about to watch was rejected by ABC & the Oscars from airing during this year's award show. It's not 'violent, political' or sexual in nature. Our ad is not 'religious or lewd' and does not portray 'guns or ammunition.' 'Feminine hygiene & hemorrhoid relief' are also banned subjects."
The reposted ad racked up 17,000 views within hours, and has more than 60,000 views on YouTube over the past two days. And fans are reacting on social media, helping to amplify the message, though it will not be seen by the more than 29 million anticipated viewers of the Oscars, according to Hirschhorn.
"A lot of the reaction women are sharing is shock and disbelief," she said. "This is a night that awards storytelling's highest form and we felt they were culturally ready."
The rejection comes a year and a half after the company's outdoor billboard-style ads for the Mom Washer, a $15.99 peri squirt bottle, which stated, "your vagina will thank you," were rejected in 13 cities. Yet Hirschhorn felt the time was ripe for taking the online ad to television, especially considering that in 2019 a short documentary about menstruation called Period. End of Sentence won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Short Subject.
In 2019, a 30-second ad spot during the Oscars cost $2.6 million. Frida, which is based in Miami, does not disclose revenue, but is a profitable company with 82 employees that's achieved triple-digit growth for each of the past five years, according to its founder. It was ready to pay a high price for exposure outside of its typical Millennial mom demographic, which it targets frequently on Instagram and Facebook. It found the Sunday night Academy Award slot appealing in part because an estimated 60 percent of Oscar viewers are female, according to Hirschhorn.
Considering the rejected ad is getting buzz online since the rejection, perhaps rebounding well and attempting to attain viral outrage because of the rejection will end up being equally good exposure. Hirschhorn's husband, Eric Hirschhorn, the former chief marketing officer of Burger King, is now Frida's CMO, and has been honing his skills marketing to Millennials for years.
"At the center of our marketing is a Millennial parenting demographic, and they're used to absorbing this messaging through social media, and seeing the real-time reactions online," Chelsea Hirschhorn said. "Still, it's a drop in the bucket compared with the Oscars viewership. But that won't deter us."