Public Health England and Durex urge young people to wrap up for Christmas frolics

Public Health England is today launching the first government sexual health campaign in eight years after research revealed that large numbers of young people are having sex that puts them at risk of getting a sexually transmitted infection.

"Protect against STIs, wear a condom" was created by Ogilvy UK, which won the work in September, and will focus on media favoured by the target 15-24 audience: Instagram Stories, Snapchat Filters and Promoted Stories.

The campaign features real people talking about their own experience of having an STI – but with their faces replaced with animated emojis, which PHE said was the "visual language" of this age group.

Partners for the campaign including Durex, British Association for Sexual Health and HIV and Family Planning Association.

Statistics show that six in ten (59%) of those diagnosed with a sexually transmitted infection are aged between 15 and 24.

A survey of 2,007 sexually active young people carried out by YouGov, meanwhile, found widespread risky sexual behaviour: almost half (47%) of those questioned said they had had sex with someone for the first time without using a condom, and one in ten said they had never used a condom.

The research also identified difficulties in discussing the topic, with 56% of men and 43% of women saying it was difficult to discuss STIs with friends – while  58% of all respondents said that if they had an STI it would be difficult to talk to their sexual partner about it.

Sheila Mitchell, marketing director at PHE, said: "Rates of STIs continue to be too high in England and the figures among 15 to 24-year-olds needs to be reduced. One of the key ways to do this is to encourage the use of condoms in this age group.

"Our survey has revealed that this age group are not used to seeing condoms in popular culture at the moment, so we’re really pleased to be launching ‘Protect Against STIs’, the first national public health campaign in eight years, and with the support of our partners across the country, this will help us bring the discussion of using condoms higher up the agenda for young people."

Tony Haywood, senior brand manager at Durex UK, said: "There is still a perception for many that condoms reduce pleasure and fun, but condoms should be a key part of positive sexual activity as they help protect against STIs."

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