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Part of the Alberta Government in Canada’s $2 million campaign against sexually transmitted disease
Irony is alive and well in a sexual health campaign that marries the visual language of dating sites with forthright, blackly comic, copy

Public information advertising, like charity advertising, has worked withing a well defined creative spectrum with basic information at one end and shock at the other. A current campaign around syphilis, Plenty of Syph, walks on the edge in trying to reach out and get some publicity for a public health problem of sexually transmitted disease. Sexual health advertising and imagery have often pushed the shock button in an effort to reach what is perceived as a complacent and carefree younger generation



There was the German Aids campaign of a couple of years back which featured dictators (including Hitler) having unprotected sex with the strapline “Aids is a mass murderer.” The explicit ad features a man’s face transforming into Hitler’s while having sex and is abrupt, strange, and simply odd.   Not necessarily a bad thing when trying to grab attention but whether it is effective is another matter. It certainly got media exposure which as we have mentioned before is a priority for cash strapped charities. Though some AIDS charities complained that the ad stigmatised AIDS sufferers.



Agency, Das Comitee, Hamburg, Germany. Photographer, Uwe Düttmann


The imagery in the Plenty of Syph campaign resembles portraits on social networking/dating sites, while the copy explains that the province of Alberta in Canada has seen an upsurge in sexually transmitted diseases, “some might see this as worrisome, but we saw this as an opportunity to tap into this growing syphilis market. And with that, PlentyofSyph.com was born.” PlentyofSyph.com  is a “networking website.” In fact the imagery is clearly realistic enough that one dating site has complained that the campaign is impacting on its brand reputation. However the imagery on Plenty of Syph is designed to be tacky, and crude. Do these kinds of public information campaigns work?



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