Making menopause a stage of life that everybody knows about: that’s the mission for the two Gen X campaigners behind a new series of outdoor ads running nationwide via Locky Docks and oOh!media NZ for World Menopause Day (18 October 2023).
“Every woman, some non-binary and trans men will go through menopause/ruahinetanga. It impacts everyone, directly or indirectly, so we all need to learn about it,” says menopause advocate Sarah Connor.
About 70% of women experience moderate or severe symptoms during perimenopause/menopause when fluctuating hormones can impact their physical and mental health for an average of five to seven years.
When Connor asked a friend in the health sector how long they thought it might take for a publicly-funded awareness campaign about menopause to be rolled out across Aotearoa, they estimated two to four years.
Connor recalls her disappointment, “We don’t have two to four years. Anyone of any age or gender has the right to understand their mind and body, and to get the support they need at any stage of life – including menopause.”
The results of the NZ Menopause Survey (2023) carried out by GP/menopause doctor Linda Dear are sobering. Of the 4,000+ respondents, 64% had experienced anxiety, 69% reported a low mood, and sadly but not surprisingly, 18% said they had thought about ending their lives. Sixty four percent didn’t know their symptoms were because of menopause.
“You don’t know what you don’t know,” Connor adds. “There are many layers to menopause.” Each outdoor ad features one of six facts she wishes she’d known sooner.
It’s the third time Connor has teamed up with brand strategist and creative Helen Milner for the cause. Following the launch of two awareness-raising tea towels in 2021, they created NZ’s first outdoor ads featuring the word menopause for World Menopause Day 2022.
Milner explains that their latest collaboration is a striking and effective way to reach the public.
“Like the tea towels, we wanted the six ads to be unapologetically bold, single minded and informative — to change people’s perceptions about menopause; to have everyone know it’s a normal and sometimes challenging transition and something to understand, respect and celebrate,” says Milner. “The tag line reflects our plain and simple goal: for everyone to learn about it — in the same way we all learn about puberty, sex and pregnancy.”
Connor knows first-hand the impact of not knowing about the hormonal changes to expect in midlife. In 2019 at age 46, she landed in perimenopause (the years leading up to menopause). Fluctuating hormones impacted her health and wellbeing in a significant way for several months until she found the right information, support, and solutions. Soon after, she founded the grassroots movement Menopause Over Martinis* and has since facilitated conversations about menopause with hundreds of people of all ages and genders in workplaces all over New Zealand, in her community and on social media.
The lack of education combined with the stigma around menopause means too many women are struggling to understand the changes they’re experiencing. Connor says that it should be easy for women and people to get the information they need and support from health professionals, friends, a partner, family and workplaces.
This year the creative pair have partnered with Big Street Bikers again to run the digital outdoor ads via its Locky Docks network – places for people to lock, dock and recharge their bike, e-bike or scooter in Tāmaki Makaurau/Auckland, Kirikiriroa/Hamilton, Tauranga, Whakatāne, Kāpiti, Te Awa Kairangi ki Tai/Lower Hutt, Te Papaioea/Palmerston North, Pōneke/Wellington, Ōtautahi/Christchurch, and Ōtepoti/Dunedin.
Says Cleve Cameron, Managing Director of Big Street Bikers: “We’re thrilled to be running the menopause awareness campaign for a second year. Repetition and great headlines really help normalise in the public’s mind a very normal thing.”
This year, oOh!media NZ have also supported the campaign with the digital ads featuring on 40 screens in 26 shopping centres across nine cities and towns nationwide.
Says Nick Vile, GM for oOh!media NZ: "We’re proud to be providing a platform around World Menopause Day this year - to help spark conversation, fight stigma and empower our communities with information.”
From where Connor and Milner are standing, the future looks bright. “One day everyone will know about menopause, and women and people going through it will be supported at home, work and in the community if needed. One tea towel, one conversation, one outdoor ad at a time…change is possible. It’s as plain and simple as that.”