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Some companies have stumbled over the line between provocative and offensive. In July, Fleet Laboratories, which makes the Summer’s Eve feminine products, has had mixed success with its “Hail to the V” campaign to market its cleansing products.

One 60-second TV ad touts the “power of the `V.’” It shows men throughout history battling each other while a voiceover says, “Over the ages and throughout the world, men have fought for it” and “it’s the center of civilization.” The ad then cuts to a modern day woman standing next to a shopping aisle of Summer’s Eve products and the voiceover says, “So ladies, show it a little love.”

But another series of ads, which showed people of different races’ hands as puppets appearing to talk as though they were a vagina, was deemed racially insensitive and pulled from the air. The company apologized.

Rhonda Zahnen, a principal at The Richards Group, which created the ads, said despite the controversy, the company was pleased with the overall reaction to the campaign. She noted that about 25,000 have correctly completed its Summer’s Eve’s online “ID the V” body awareness quiz. And Stephen Colbert even did a parody of the talking-hands ads on Comedy Central’s “The Colbert Report.”

“We’re really excited about having that kind of publicity and coverage. A month ago nobody was talking about feminine hygiene,” says Zahnen, who added that Summer’s Eve learned through research that women were ready to have frank discussions about their bodies. “We just wanted to be sure that the conversation is focused on celebrating and empowering women.”

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