Get New Yorkers tested more frequently.
That was the original ask for our public health campaign.
But the bigger task was, how could we approach this project in a way that was innovative? That didn’t rely on fear? And that still stood out and felt fresh after decades of HIV messaging?
By making it sexy, that’s how.
We started a different conversation around HIV. Not only to remind people the virus is still around, but also to keep the message around it sex positive. One that makes sure all New Yorkers are confident in their status. One that gives people the information they need to make healthy choices.
So they can continue to play and be sexy.
The game changer for STD prevention
Ask any New Yorker. HIV campaigns have been a part of the city for decades. But they’re not exactly sexy. They’re not provocative enough to make people stop and think. In fact, past campaigns have been downright scary and negative.
We wanted to do something positive, uplifting and sexy. Something that made sexually active people feel empowered.
It all started with our broader initiative to promote PrEP. If you’re not familiar with how the drug works, PrEP is a game changer. It can help anyone protect against HIV. If you’re sexually active and have multiple partners, PrEP might be right for you.
Which begs the question: How can we make that sexy?
Refreshing a story that’s been ignored for decades
Phase 1 of our campaign kicked off with: Be Sure.
Empowering, and also sexy. Inclusive. Featuring strong subjects who are confident in their status.
Bandujo depicted real people, such as model and actress Carmen Carrera. The models for our photo shoots included a diverse spectrum of people who were straight, gay and trans.
Why? Because PrEP is for everyone. The campaign is inclusive and sex positive. The message encourages New Yorkers who are sexually active with multiple partners to get tested. Everyone should be sure.
What nobody expected from a public health campaign
But New York didn’t need another clever, one off headline. They needed something recognizable. Branded. Anthemic. Worth telling your friends about.
That’s when we took the message of Be Sure and elevated it into its own brand.
Even more sex positive. Even more personal. Look at this ad. How adorable is this couple?
It allowed us to go into greater detail about PrEP for everyone, using bright and bold colors like pink and white. Nobody could have expected this aesthetic from a public health campaign.
Plus, we were also tasked with creating a product that made it easy to play sure.
And so, we developed the #PlaySure Kit with Dr. Demetre Daskalakis, head of the NYC Bureau of HIV and AIDS prevention unit.
He famously told the New York Times about a memorable patient who was vigilant about his own care. The man actually carried a container that looked like a slightly oversize cosmetics compact. It neatly held condoms issued by the city, lubricant and his H.I.V. medications.
“This is brilliant,” Dr. Demetre said.
And the rest was history. The #PlaySure Kit was born.
James Weber, our photographer, put together this reel to show our campaign in action:
This kit can hold condoms, lubricant, and the pill of a person’s choice, including PrEP, HIV medications, and/or birth control. And they’re available for free at participating community organizations, health clinics and at many community events throughout the year, including borough Pride events and World Aids Day.
And the best part was, the kit celebrates all New Yorkers.
Because everyone should Play Sure.
Just off the heels of Pride Week 2016, we wanted to pay homage to the incredible talent who created this campaign to help New Yorkers change the conversation around HIV.
To the NYC Department of Health, to the brave models of our campaigns, and to you, New York City, thank you for playing sure.
And for staying sexy.