Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations
Durex Condom Maker Using ‘Humor’ Ads to Sell Condoms in Europe
SSL International, the world's No. 1 condom maker, has begun a global television and print advertising campaign using "slapstick humor" to promote its Durex brand condoms, the Wall Street Journal reports. In the TV ads, which have begun a six-month broadcasting run in Britain and other European countries and will soon be launched in Asia, a young man walking down the street to meet his date is followed by "a boisterous and excited crowd" of men dressed in white sperm costumes. The sperm are suddenly "trapped, squirming, in a huge condom in the middle of the street," as the ad bears the tagline: "Durex: For a Hundred Million Reasons." The ads back away from the "sober theme of safe sex" that has been a "staple of condom advertising," seeking instead to use humor to appeal to 16- to 24-year-old viewers, who the Journal reports are becoming sexually active earlier and using condoms more often. According to a Kaiser Family Foundation report, 58% of ninth to 12th graders in the United States in 1999 reported using condoms the last time they had intercourse, up from 46% in 1991. "We've moved away from the preaching campaigns that create anxiety. And we've also moved on from sexual ads because they are not effective anymore. The new ads spell out a literal truth about sperm getting through," Leigh Taylor, SSL's global category director for Durex, said. While the ads are already airing in Europe, condom manufacturers face stricter guidelines for TV advertising in the United States, as U.S. networks "don't want to be seen making light of sex, and they don't want to emphasize birth control but disease prevention," Vicky Rideout, Kaiser's vice president for the study of entertainment, media and health, said. Several networks refuse to run condom ads, and others will run them only after 11 p.m. and ask that ads not be "overly erotic." While the most popular U.S. condom brand, Trojan, does air ads on TV, it "faces pressure to keep its ads quite serious." For Durex, SSL International plans to launch a U.S. poster campaign in September, in which ads will depict a "trophy topped with gold figurines of a man and a woman entwined in a love-making embrace" and the tagline, "Have the sex you tell your friends you have." A Durex radio campaign also features "playful interviews with couples talking at length about their first sexual encounters" (Galloni, Wall Street Journal, 7/27). Kaisernetwork.org has more information on condom advertising
online, including a special report titled, "Changing Standards: Condom Advertising on American Television."
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