Why We Told HPV to F Off

By Publicis Media InSites Archives
Cover image for  article: Why We Told HPV to F Off

Sex and cancer. They shouldn’t necessarily be intertwined, but they are. HPV is a sexually transmitted virus that most people will get in their lifetimes, many types of which can cause cancer. In fact, every year in the US nearly 40,000 new cases of HPV-related cancers are diagnosed; HPV causes ninety percent of cervical and anal cancers as well as other genital and throat cancers. It also causes genital warts.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Most HPV types can be prevented with a vaccine, with many countries targeting eradication of HPV through ambitious public health programs; Australia is on track to be the first country to achieve cervical cancer elimination by 2035.

If Gen Z gets vaccinated for HPV, that future number could be zero. But despite the shot’s safety and efficacy, vaccination rates are low.

Against this backdrop, we decided it was time to drive change in the US by talking to the most influential audience: GenZ. Through our #PHMLove initiative (the community outreach arm of our healthcare media agency), we partnered with Publicis sister agency Digitas Health and non-profit F Cancer to create a campaign unique to HPV prevention by targeting people who are actually engaging in behavior that transmits HPV, not their parents. GenZ (18-26), the largest and most influential generation, cares a lot about causes and is dedicated to driving change for good. Despite their beliefs and behaviors, large gaps in HPV vaccinations exist in this group segment. They present a unique opportunity to drive substantive change.

To target 18–26-year-olds who are sexually active (or who want to be), we created a campaign that behaves just like its audience: honest, bold and unbounded by tradition. While Gen Z might be more concerned about getting it on than they are about getting cancer, we worked to set the stakes of personal health. The result: HPV F’s Everybody.

The creative of the campaign is bold, direct and inclusive – representing all types of preferences and identities, because as the campaign will tell you – it doesn’t matter who you are or what you’re into, HPV F’s Everybody. For a generation that doesn’t discriminate, it’s important they realize that HPV doesn’t either.

Armed with eye-catching creative, we took our mission to our media partners with whom we work every day. Our partners showed up – donating more than $350,000 in media, which has outperformed expectations. To kick things off, we leaned into the unexpected nature of the creative and showed up big in Out of Home, targeting Gen Z haunts including nearly 150 college campuses including UCLA, Stanford, Northwestern, UPenn and George Washington, as well as malls in those same markets and beyond. We drove curious consumers to a custom landing page where they could find their vax from a digital campaign on familiar outlets like WebMD and endemic sites, but also found an edge (and high engagement) on less traditional platforms like Grindr and Thrillist. We even took over Times Square with multiscreen billboards.

While this campaign targets a specific moment in the lives of its target audience, its true purpose is to drive lifelong change. Of course, cancer prevention will remain a focus for us all, it is the impetus to gain autonomy over one’s own health and healthcare choices that we hope to be the output of this campaign. For many, an emerging sex life (or desire to have one) may be the first moment you consider your bodily autonomy and how to best take care. Through this campaign which puts public health in the hands of Gen Z, we hope to move more young people to proactively care for their health. Especially if it means we can tell HPV to F OFF.

Posted at MediaVillage through the Thought Leadership self-publishing platform.

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