What a Brand Would Give to Be a Tween Girl’s Friend

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Kotex launched its tween-oriented line in 2010, with eye-catching black-boxes.

Not so long ago, ads for pads and tampons showed images of women in gauzy garments, doing yoga on the beach. Manufacturers left it to moms and big sisters to give young women "the talk."

Today, these brands speak to girls directly:

Always’ “#LikeAGirl” ad, featuring young women, ran in the last superbowl. “First Moon Party”, a humorous take on a girl’s wish to get her first period, got over 30 million views since it went up on YouTube last year.

“It’s not surprising that it could be turned into something funny because it’s already something that I’m comfortable with,” said Willa, a 12-year-old Brooklynite.

Direct talk and the rhetoric of female empowerment seem to be a good match for young women today. But when the product being advertised is clothing or makeup, it can raise questions.

Emily Long, director of communication at The LAMP, a media-awareness organization for kids, said companies use soft-focus feminism to obscure the fact that a brand must play on a woman’s insecurities in order to sell product.

She cited Dove skincare, which has a selfie campaign for teens, and Aerie, which announced last year it would stop re-touching photos of its models.

“It’s still a construction, “ Long said. “They’re still creating a shot, putting them in costumes and lighting and makeup. Just because they’re not going back over it later on with something like Photoshop doesn’t mean that it hasn’t been manipulated.”

Aerie says its ads are aimed at young women 15 and up. Pink by Victoria’s Secret, a rival clothing brand, says it focuses on “college-aged women”

But in fact both brands are popular with tweens, because they sell fashionable underwear that fits them.

A recent study by EPM Communications put tween spending power at $200 billion.