Government puts £15m sex-health task out to pitch

LONDON - The government is to call a review of its campaign on sexual health and plans to increase the budget from £3m to more than £15m a year.

The incumbent, Delaney Lund Knox Warren & Partners, will be invited to repitch along with three or four other agencies yet to be chosen by the Department of Health and COI Communications.

After criticism that the government has not devoted enough money to sexual health, ministers have decided to rethink the highly sensitive campaign after sexually transmitted diseases reached record levels this year.

The new work is likely to launch next April.

John Reid, the health secretary, has earmarked a total of £50m for the new drive to tackle ignorance among young people about the risks of unprotected sex.

Although some pressure groups want a return to the shock tactics employed by the TBWA 1980s Aids awareness campaign, the government is thought likely to adopt a more "softly softly" approach. Its advisers believe many young people simply tune out from hard-hitting warnings because they think the problem does not affect them.

Instead, the new campaign may focus on chlamydia, which can cause infertility, after the number of cases rose by 140% since 1998.

A pitch for a cross-departmental campaign to combat obesity is expected next year. It will provide information about diet and urge people to get more exercise.

The DoH has decided to retain Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO for its anti-smoking campaign. The budget will be increased but no figure has yet been decided.

Ministers accepted the need for more public education in their White Paper on public health last week. As a result, a new independent body will be set up to implement the "healthy living" strategy.

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