Saskatoon Sexual Health: Designing an STI awareness campaign that resonates
When audiences are already being bombarded with health news, how do we bring awareness to another, also important, need for prevention? Cases of syphilis in Saskatchewan have increased in recent years, and Saskatoon Sexual Health came to us in the height of the pandemic to design the theme, messaging, and visuals for a multi-platform awareness campaign reaching young people across the province.
COVID-19 immersed us all in messaging about health, and from risk and rates to prevention and preparedness, we have been hearing a lot lately about how to take care of each other. The pandemic has shown us just how important our individual efforts are when a harmful illness is on the rise.
How do we take advantage of this moment, when the future is uncertain and attention is fixed on the pandemic, without making things confusing or getting lost in the weeds?
Story Strategy / Focus group facilitation / Print & Digital Design
Dwell House Communications
Consulting the experts
If we want to reach a specific audience with a particular message, our best bet is to go to them and ask: what resonates? Luckily, Saskatoon Sexual Health has a great group of 2SLGBTQ+ youth who were keen to help us get on the right path.
To explore the story we wanted to tell with this syphilis awareness campaign, we led the youth advisory group through a narrative workshop to gain a better understanding of key questions like
What matters to Saskatchewan youth these days? What kind of choices are you already making about your health and the health of your partners, your community?”
Think like a showrunner
We worked with Story Strategist Rachel Malena-Chan on this project, who brought out discussion by using the metaphor of a TV show. “If this campaign were a Netflix show, what genre would you tune into?” We wanted to know, are young people looking for something uplifting, funny, edgy, informative, or scary? Did they want to react with shock, with anxiety, with a sense of moral duty? This line of questioning often gets missed in the creative process, but it’s vital to determine not only what we want to say with our messages, but what we want the audience to feel with the story we’re telling.
Setting the tone
In the end, the youth settled on a cynical, edgy tone for the syphilis awareness campaign. We decided together that we didn’t want to overdo the moralizing or optimism – either one felt out of touch with the pandemic-woes that many of the youth were feeling. We ended up with a sex-positive theme that directly referenced the COVID moment we were (and continue to be) faced with.
Represent your audience
The advisory group also emphasized the importance of seeing themselves – in all their diversity – in this campaign. Without their support and guidance, the campaign could have looked and felt a lot different, and it is undoubtedly stronger because of their suggestions, critiques, and insights.
Go big – and get strategic – with your next campaign
In the end, we were so proud to see how the final messaging concept translated into eye-catching creative designs. This campaign had great reach and a wide variety of iterations, with a series of 9 creatives for use on billboards, buses, digital and print boards in malls, and social media across the Province.
With a creative team to lead the way, Saskatoon Sexual Health was able to focus on what they do best: representing, and organizing, community members for a stronger, healthier province. With a thoughtful, relatable campaign design, their vital message about sexual health has a chance to cut through the noise and land with the right people.
We love helping community-builders do their thing, and it was a treat to work with an organization doing great work in our community. The courage of Saskatoon Sexual Health allowed us to have a lot of fun with this campaign, and the bold direction of the campaign really paid off. We even heard through the grapevine that the campaign received attention from representatives from the World Health Organization. Let’s keep pushing the envelope and letting young people lead!
It was a privilege to work with Natalya and all of the young people on the Advisory Committee. Looking forward to the next iteration of this campaign! Stay tuned for more.
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