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Project: Plenty of Syph
Client: Alberta Health Services

We needed to establish syphilis as an emerging, prevalent sexually transmitted infection (STI). The tougher challenge was to encourage young people to consider, then change their sexual behaviours—and get tested for STIs as a whole.

The audience needed to overcome their, “Yeah, but that doesn’t happen to people like me” attitude. We developed a strategy to raise doubt in their minds about whether their next sexual partner might have syphilis or another STI.

A mock dating site——was created to showcase the promiscuous, casual behaviour towards sex, so prevalent with online dating sites. The target audience found the parody and the irony of the profiles both entertaining and disturbing, which mirrored their reaction to the online ads and late night TV commercials.
A Howard Research survey conducted four months after the campaign reported the campaign had 92% recall amongst 18-24 year olds. The recall with older audiences was still 86%.
In clinic interviews, nurses said they “suddenly went nuts at the clinic”. Visits to STI clinics were up 17% compared to the same time in the year previous, an increase of 1,390 people. Alberta Health Services also indicated that many physicians reported an increase in patients initiating discussions about syphilis and other STIs during visits.

The website received over 110,000 visits during the six week campaign, an exceptional number for the relatively small, very specific target audience.

Plenty of Syph resonated not only with the target audience—it captured the attention of creative awards judges too. The campaign won:

  • Internationally at The Clio Healthcare Awards in New York
  • Nationally at the Marketing Awards and Applied Arts Awards
  • Locally at the ACE Awards

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