The Timing of the Campaign

Campaign research started in mid 2012. Our Agenda launched in June 2013. It currently remains in market and has been so successful that its longevity is secured through continued future investment.

The Challenge

We needed to reach and engage men who have sex with other men to start conversations and thought processes linking social and environmental anxieties and pressures with their sexual health. The goal: to reduce HIV and STI transmission among gay men. Supporting research indicates that mental state — either positive or negative — has a direct effect on a person's decision-making ability, and gay men experience disproportionately high levels of anxiety, depression and substance use.

The Insight & Strategy

To be blunt, how you feel is how you fuck. We needed to connect the dots to bring greater attention to high-risk sexual behaviors for gay men. Traditional healthcare messaging like "wear a condom" or "don't do drugs" wasn't going to work. We learned that though our target audience is online, they weren't visiting health education websites in large numbers.

The Execution

Create a content-rich website that focused on making information accessible, customizable and engaging. is a breakthrough site, fully compatible with tablets and mobile phones, and sophisticated enough to cater to an individual's needs, while designed to connect him to the broader community.

Integrated self-help tools, such as the interactive Q&A section and the Wellness Wheel, enable users to self-identify what areas of their life might be areas of concern. includes a blog and research portal, and through user preferences, builds custom information and news feeds based on the users' areas of concern.

We developed an aggressive and engaging content calendar, giving gay men a reason to visit the site repetitively. All content was designed to get our target audience thinking and making connections between their feelings, their actions and their sexual health. In the spirit of doing things differently, we refused to use the overtly sexual imagery of past campaigns and cast six diverse men for a photo shoot, which produced three powerful images true to the essence of Our Agenda. We placed these images throughout the website and turned them into multimedia ads. We used paid media on sex-positive web, mobile, print and out-of-home to drive gay men to, and get conversations started.

A public service video, introducing the campaign, was also created. Set in a meaningful location (Toronto's AIDS Memorial), the video is an exploration of themes: love, hurt, rejection, acceptance, homophobia, shame, loneliness, self-esteem, drugs, hate, isolation, vulnerability, resilience, community, great sex. We asked gay men what these [themes] meant to them and they told us. That's our agenda: start conversations. And we did.

The Result

It's admittedly difficult to measure results from a public health campaign, however in 2014 we've had over 4,200 visits to our site — 80% of which are unique visits. There is also strong anecdotal evidence from the public health sector that the site is being referenced and used by front-line AIDS workers as they counsel people on their mental, emotional and sexual health. The Gay Men's Sexual Health Alliance recognizes that our efforts represent a well-thought-out and well-executed initiative for a complex issue and, thus, have secured significant funding to build upon the success of Our Agenda and over the next three years.

Supplementary Information:

AIDS service organizations (ASOs) in Ontario — under the umbrella of The Gay Men's Sexual Health Alliance, funded by the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care — aim to educate and work with high-risk communities, like gay men, about topics like STI and HIV transmission.

There were several reasons for this campaign:

  • A perception in the media/public that HIV transmission was no longer a serious issue
  • Message fatigue — a built up resistance to government organizations telling [gay men] what to do and/or censoring parts of gay men's sexual life over and over again
  • Higher-risk populations don't consume mainstream media and are marginalized within society

In addition, recent academic research into high-risk sexual practices suggests that exposure to other psychosocial and environmental pressures, such as anxiety, depression, substance use and homophobia, can dramatically increase one's chances of engaging in high-risk sex.

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