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U.S. News

Minnesota: Should AIDS Walk Ads Be Sexy?

December 3, 2009

The Minnesota AIDS Project's campaign to promote its AIDS Walk 2010 among young gay men has drawn mixed reactions. MAP's print advertisements feature fit, oil-slathered young men wearing nothing but orange banners reading "How Much Will You Raise?" across their midsections, while the text makes use of sexual double entendres. The promotion has touched off an online discussion questioning whether sex should be used to promote an AIDS event, and whether such an approach might actually encourage promiscuity.

Sexual imagery is useful in promotions, but on health matters an ad needs to persuade its audience that the issue affects them personally, said Joe Redden, assistant professor of marketing at the University of Minnesota. "The ads might instill a level of either arousal or revolt that will keep people from thinking further about it," he said. "On the positive side, the target audience will probably find it entertaining, which increases its chances of going viral."

"Ads that use sex are more engaging, but no one's really sure if they're more effective," said Tom Reichert, a University of Georgia advertising professor. "Ads like this aren't designed to educate people, just get them closer to an issue so they'll be more open to it."

"We're starting the third post-Rock Hudson generation now, and AIDS doesn't set off the same alarm as it did in the 1980s," said Lorraine Teel, MAP's executive director. Most of the ads for the walk are conventional, with smiling, clothed people of all ages, genders, and ethnicities, she said. The ads for young gay men are meant to bring HIV/AIDS out of the background, she said, noting, "If we can use sex to sell toothpaste and cars, why not use it to talk about having safer sex?"

"Something isn't clicking with the traditional messages, and there's a part of the key under-30 crowd audience that will respond to this," said David Folkens, MAP's communications director.

Back to other news for December 2009

Adapted from:
Star Tribune (Minneapolis)
11.19.2009; Kristin Tillotson

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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
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