We set out to increase visibility and awareness around the ongoing HIV/AIDS crisis by revisiting the early, related stigmatization of the LGBTQ+ community. Engagement of mass audiences in this discussion would organically build fandom for the launch of It’s A Sin on HBO Max – a show that directly reflects past stories and present challenges.
Our work was designed to achieve specific measurable awareness goals, while sparking social conversation and the sort of unpredictable community response that can take on a life of its own.
A time capsule approach defined the strategy: we could rally community by igniting conversation throughout today’s LGBTQ+ community. This could drive informed debate about the disease and its stigma towards support of the non-profits fighting for change today.
Specifically, we could use the shock factor of past headlines in the context of now, and engage an audience surprised to see appalling, stigmatizing retro rhetoric authored when the HIV/AIDS crisis began. This discovery of stigma then would mirror growing stigma now, around the more recent pandemic. This isn't only history.
Insights proved we could engage a passionate fandom by addressing longstanding tensions. Focusing on that media mistruths in the era captured in the show – that HIV/AIDS was a disease experienced only by the gay community – we created awareness around the current status of the ongoing HIV/AIDS epidemic and connected people through informed enlightenment.
Content was crafted to create a jolt of awareness around the language used in media of the 1980s (“Prevent HIV, Avoid Sharing Food,” “Homosexual Disorder”) which stigmatized the gay community. We coordinated 50 synchronized influencers to post 50 tiles highlighting these headlines in signature neon pink with captions for context. The tiles flooded the feeds of our target community.
For each tile posted, HBO Max donated a $1000 reparation to Prevention Access – an HIV/AIDS charity providing accurate, meaningful information to those impacted by HIV/AIDS. Prevention Access through it’s U=U (Undetectable = Untransmissable) movement is sharing the message to dismantle HIV stigma, improve the lives of people living with HIV, and bring us closer to ending the epidemic, making them the perfect non-profit partnership for this campaign.
A diverse group of influencers rallied to the campaign. Celebrities like Elton John, Neil Patrick Harris, Indya Moore, organizations like GLAAD and on-the-ground activists like Maria Mejia and Ashlee Marie Preston participated – with no fee.
Sinner’s Kits for celebs/influencers conjured the era...
It’s A Sin branded denim jacket by queer artist OG Millie Certificate of donation 80s-style satchel with show logo “Through Positive Eyes” photo book by HIV/AIDS patients/survivors Walkman and cassette with hits from the time period Pins from prominent HIV/AIDS organizations
Spurred by hyper-targeted conversation, influencers posted about Sinners Kits in-feed, including an 8-minute in-feed video from Ben De La Creme reposted to Instagram Stories. All recipients posted in-kind, from It’s A Sin stars Olly Alexander and Lydia West, to Gottmik, to Billy Porter – whose post featured a swipe up to watch the show on HBO Max.
This LGBTQ+ focused, personality-led campaign celebrated a magnificent show while highlighting critical truths and sparking a crucial dialogue. By the numbers, this meant…
426 Pieces Of Organic Content 6.1M+ Impressions 147K Engagements $591K+ Social Media Value $70,000 donated to Prevention Access
Beyond surpassing more tangible brand goals, we generated spontaneous interaction and conversation that put the message in the hands of the audience as cultural capital. Repurposing and reversing misinformation from the past, the campaign contributed to the dissemination of beneficial health information for the present and future – benefitting the diverse communities most impacted by ongoing stigma. Non-profit leaders and communities were given the reins to the discussion, and they steered toward shared truth and progress.
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