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How Bodyform's farting 'CEO' became a viral sensation

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Our story last week on just how the "CEO" of sanitary towel firm Bodyform set one traumatised man straight on the truth about women's periods raised a few eyebrows among cynical Reg commentards.

Just how, they wondered, did the company manage to respond to Richard Neill's Facebook post of 8 October...

Hi, as a man I must ask why you have lied to us for all these years . As a child I watched your advertisements with interest as to how at this wonderful time of the month that the female gets to enjoy so many things ,I felt a little jealous. I mean bike riding , rollercoasters, dancing, parachuting, why couldn't I get to enjoy this time of joy and 'blue water' and wings !! Dam my penis!! Then I got a girlfriend, was so happy and couldn't wait for this joyous adventurous time of the month to happen .....you lied !! There was no joy , no extreme sports , no blue water spilling over wings and no rocking soundtrack oh no no no. Instead I had to fight against every male urge I had to resist screaming wooaaahhhhh bodddyyyyyyfooorrrmmm bodyformed for youuuuuuu as my lady changed from the loving , gentle, normal skin coloured lady to the little girl from the exorcist with added venom and extra 360 degree head spin. Thanks for setting me up for a fall bodyform , you crafty bugger

...with this delicious riposte on 16 October:

Given the improbably short time between post and riposte, the truth was evident: the whole thing was a viral marketing campaign involving the so-called "Richard Neill", and the dark forces of advertising Strategy Boutiques.

Well, we at El Reg were about to embark on a relentless pursuit of the facts - involving mobile phone tapping, surveillance UAVs and Wi-Fi slurping stealth spymobiles - when we got a rather handy break in the case.

Earlier this year, one Matt Golding of Rubber Republic contacted us for some advice on a High Altitude Ballooning (HAB) project he was working on. Last week, he threw over an email revealing that his firm was responsible for the Bodyform vid.

Matt put us in touch with Bodyform brand controller Yulia Kretova, and between the two of them they explained just how the whole thing came together.

First up, Matt confirmed that Richard Neill is "a real guy from Ireland who posted for fun". Bodyform spotted the post, which within 24 hours had attracted 80,000 likes.

Inspired, Yulia Kretova hatched a plan. She explained: "I suggested to our marketing director that we should do something, as the tone of his posting felt in tune for our strategy for the brand. We put a call out to our agencies for suggestions about what we could do and from this came the idea of making a YouTube film.

"Production of the video was coordinated by Bodyform’s media agency, Carat, which also managed social amplification and lined up London-based boutique agency Rubber Republic to write and produce the script."

Matt takes up the story: "We rapidly thought through all the funny ways it was possible to respond, before discounting most of them for being either evasive (i.e. they didn't answer his question and instead told a different joke) or misogynistic. We ended up with two scripts. One was slightly safer (and addressed men) and the other confronted Richard's post head-on, and was the first draft of the script you've seen. We fired them off on email and went and had some lunch.

"The brilliant and brave brand controller at Bodyform surprised us in two ways. Firstly she responded very quickly. And secondly she picked the sharper of the two scripts as her favourite."

So far, just two days had passed between Richard's post on Monday night, and once Rubber Republic got the go-ahead, "things started to move very fast", Matt noted.

He said: "On Thursday three of us at Rubber Republic wrote drafts taking on different bits of feedback, Friday our team worked to combine the three and add some magic dust while I cast the film and our producer frantically called together a crew for a Saturday shoot in Carat's Regents Park offices.

"The whole team were on the shoot (Bodyform, Carat and Rubber Republic’s crew) and we agreed a final shooting script round a table, which I then shot with the excellent actress Charlotte Palmer. I cut the film on Sunday in my conservatory and sent it to the client that night."

Yulia Kretova said of the final result: "We created this video as a light-hearted and humorous response to Richard's post. We always love to hear from our consumers. By constantly listening to them and engaging with them, we can make sure that we always understand women and continue to be an innovative, forward-thinking brand.

"Richard’s post on our Facebook wall made us and over 80,000 other people click 'like' because it was funny and highlighted some classic stereotypes. We hope that our response goes some way in breaking down some of these stereotypes.

"We think that women are heroes and we are proud to be a brand that they trust and that understands them. We had a giggle making this video and we hope our fans see the funny side too."

Agreeably, Yulia concluded: "We decided to send Richard and his girlfriend to Paris for a romantic weekend to say thank you for being such a good sport. We were delighted when he got back in touch to tell us that he loved the video."

Finally, we asked Matt that given the success of the video, is this kind of guerilla viral marketing the future of advertising, or will we still be enjoying menstruating women skydiving to rock soundtracks on TV for the foreseeable future?

He replied: "I think the key thing here is a move towards being quite up front and transparent with audiences. I very much doubt people really want more graphic sanitary ads on their TVs, so the reason the initial ads existed still stand, but online it is certainly possible to be more direct, and so things could get more honest."

In conclusion, we'd like to point out to the viral marketing conspiracy theorists among you, who'll obviously be disappointed by the highly plausible timeline of events outline above, that it is possible that we at The Register are in fact part of the campaign, and that this entire piece is a fabrication. You decide. ®

NOT FOR PUBLICATION: NOTE TO MATT/YULIA

Hi - hope the story's what you wanted. Can I have my payment in cash? Also, if you can throw in a few boxes of Bodyform for the missus, that'd be handy. She's off skydiving next week... Cheers, Lester.

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