The Weird Ways We Raise Awareness About Important Things

Jul 15, 2013 • Advertising

Sex sells pretty much everything except itself, so when it comes to campaigns to raise awareness about sexual issues, people have had to get a little creative. Here are three of the more interesting campaigns that have been launched in the name of awareness.

Condoms help prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted illness — but it’s telling that when we think “condom,” we only think of the male version. The international health organization PATH is working to change that and in so doing, put health back into women’s hands. The first step is to create awareness of course so to do this, they decided to follow in the footsteps of other initiatives that have, with some degree of success, brought unglamourous health concerns onto the runway.

Last year, PATH issued a challenge — design outfits made of female condoms. By combining crowdsourcing and fashion, PATH managed to bring a 20-year-old sexual health near-unknown into the minds and conversations of the nation.

PATH's female condom awareness fashion show

“We were blown away by people’s interpretations,” Kimberley Whipkey, head of advocacy and communications for the project, told Fast Company’s Co.Exist blog. “There was one baby blue chiffon dress that looked like it was ready to go to a ball.”

If there is anything more attention-getting than a fashion show when the country is already revved up for New York Fashion Week, it’s a scandal on the mommy blogs. This latter is what Bedsider, an online birth control support network for women 18 to 29 run by the private, non-profit National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, went for when they launched Bootylog, an app that seeks to tap into the everyone-is-doing-it mentality to get teens and twenty-somethings to practice safer sex.

Previously, Bedsider, had run a Facebook campaign collecting personal anecdotes of sex fails on Facebook with the message, “you didn’t give up on sex. Don’t give up on birth control.” Their overshare app, released late last year, was a natural next step to get young adults talking about sex and understanding the options available to them.

“By getting people to talk about sex — the good, the bad and the embarrassing — we think BootyLog will ultimately empower people to make healthier choices about sex and preventing unplanned pregnancies,” said Lawrence Swiader, the senior director of digital media for the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. “BootyLog shows that sex can be fun and responsible.”

Not everyone was in agreement. SheKnows, a site listed among Forbes’ top 100 blogs for women, covered the app in their Family section:

Many moms we spoke with were dumbfounded that the app is funded by an organization that has a goal of reducing teen pregnancy in the United States by one third between 2006 and 2015. Is an app called BootyLog a way to do it?

Rachael, pregnant with her third child, spoke from experience. “As I was a teen mother (to two children) I can confidently say, that app would not help me not get pregnant,” she shared. “Bragging about sexual encounters and reading others brag is more like[ly] to promote risky sex than prevent it. Stick to the old-fashioned way of actually keeping communication lines open with your children.”

The app name itself is not something that you’d like to see on your child’s phone. “The fact that it’s called BootyLog is enough to put me — and I hope, most, other parents — off,” said Rachael. And Emily from Canada, only half-joking, exclaimed, “If I found out my kid was using an app called ‘BootyLog’ I would be smashing heads. This is not the right way to go about teaching safe sex.”

But when it comes to shock value, no one has come close to the French media disruption firm TBWA, which in 2004 and 2005 created some of the most terrifying HIV and AIDS awareness campaigns for AIDES France that we have ever seen. This is from their 2004 campaign, organized with creative director Erik Vervroegen, art director Cedric Moutaud and the photographer Dimitri Daniloff:

AIDES France HIV/AIDS awareness campaign 2004

AIDES France HIV/AIDS awareness campaign 2004

The following year, they switched it up, targeting childhood icons we associate with invincibility:

AIDES France HIV/AIDS awareness campaign 2005

AIDES France HIV/AIDS awareness campaign 2005

What do you think? Is there a better way to get people talking about sexual health?