Case Study: Back to the future for sexual health

Fashion photographs from the 1970s were used in sexual health charity fpa's campaign aimed at over-50s.

FPA sexual health campaign
FPA sexual health campaign

Sexual health campaigns are usually aimed at young people. But the sexual health charity FPA broke with tradition this year with its first campaign aimed at the over-50s.

Called The Middle-Age Spread, the campaign was conceived after the charity discovered a sharp rise in the number of sexually transmitted infections among older people.

According to figures published by the Health Protection Agency, STIs among over-45s doubled in the past decade to 13,000 in 2009. Last year, more men over 45 got genital herpes than those aged 16 to 19.

The organisation also noticed an increase in the number of older callers - the oldest to date being an 82-year-old man who was starting a new relationship. Despite this, most campaigns ignored older people - who, in turn, tended to regard STIs as nothing to do with them, or were too embarrassed to ask for condoms.

"More over-50s are coming out of relationships and having sex in the same way that young people are, but no one is talking to them about sexual health," says an FPA spokeswoman.

The Ethical Agency was asked to develop a creative that addressed this. It found a series of fashion adverts from the 1970s, which it reproduced as posters. The idea was to remind people how they dressed at that time, before reminding them they should use condoms.

The campaign cost £12,000 and had two strands of activity. The first was to send 3,000 campaign packs, including posters, a campaign banner and a booklet on sexual health for the over-50s, to sexual health clinics, NHS walk-in centres and GP surgeries.

The other strand was media coverage. There was no advertising budget, so FPA had to concentrate on editorial. It targeted media favoured by older people - broadsheet newspapers, for example, rather than digital media.

The campaign took place during the charity's annual sexual health week, which ran this year from 13 to 19 September. The spokeswoman estimated the campaign had so far reached up to 30 million people.

Julie Bentley, chief executive of FPA, said: "We have to get the message across that STIs don't care about greying hair and a few wrinkles. Unless we take action now, this situation is only going to get worse."


DAN MARTIN, Director of strategy, Chameleon Net

Dan Martin, director of strategy, Chameleon NetAn injection of humour into an otherwise humourless subject makes the creative for this campaign strong and attention-grabbing.

In terms of raising awareness, the FPA's call to action - to practise safe sex - is one that despite some incongruity between female poster icons and a condom, works well.

But when it comes to generating inquiries, the online response channel for this campaign could be better. The poster invites people to "Ask WES online" to get advice. This had me scouring FPA's home page for a small 'WES' (website enquiry service) link.

Considering the delicate subject matter, online provides a discreet method for sourcing information and reaches the target demographic (30 per cent of internet users in the UK are over 50). So perhaps a more visible, dedicated URL link could better continue the conversation.

Creativity: 3
Delivery: 3
6 out of 10

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Already registered?
Sign in
RSS Feed

Third Sector Insight

Sponsored webcasts, surveys and expert reports from Third Sector partners

Third Sector Logo

Get our bulletins. Read more articles. Join a growing community of Third Sector professionals

Register now