We're facing an STD epidemic—and young people are getting hit the hardest
In 2015, reportable STDs reached their highest number ever. And half of these infections affect people between the ages of 15 and 24.
Young people are living in the dark about their STD status
Despite their alarming STD rates, only 12 percent of young people say they were tested in the past year.
Ignorance is not bliss: Untreated STDs can have serious consequences
Millions of people are living with an STD they don't even know they have. Take chlamydia, for instance. It's one of the most common STDs, but it usually doesn't show any symptoms, meaning there's no way to detect it without testing. When left undiagnosed and untreated, it can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease, a condition that can cause infertility in women.
The American Sexual Health Association (ASHA) wants to stop the spread of STDs.
We need young people to act—now, before it's too late. Our goal: Stop them in their tracks, show them why testing matters and drive them to get tested.
The Discovery: Young people are open about sex, yet largely silent about STDs.
In the rare occasions when STDs are discussed, the conversation is gossipy and shaming. Research indicated 74% of young adults ages 18-24 agreed they would feel badly if they got one. Ultimately, this stigma overshadows medical reality: Some of the most common STDs are extremely prevalent BUT easily treatable.
The Task: Dismantle the silent barrier to STD testing
To get young adults to act and get tested, we needed to tackle the biggest barrier: Social stigma.
The Strategy: Normalize the STD conversation
Make it about health, not shame. About empowerment, not scare tactics.
Bring it to life in ways that were AUTHENTIC to the audience, generated AWARENESS of the issue and, most importantly, drove ACTION.
The Idea: Leverage a movement to create one of our own
This audience is already familiar with "YES Means YES," which is about the right to make your own choice about sex – and have that choice respected. "YES Means TEST" harnesses that power and takes it a step further, empowering people who say "yes" to sex to do so with an understanding of the responsibilities that choice carries. "YES" to sex should also mean "YES" to an STD test.
- Strike up a media partnership: We hand-selected SoulPancake for their target insight, credibility, social media strength and production chops. We co-created a hero video with content using comedian Whitney Cummings. The idea? Whitney would take to the streets of a college campus to chat with young adults using free smoothies as "bait." The students' eagerness to slurp a green drink in the name of health gave Whitney an opportunity to talk with them about something even healthier—STD testing. Their unscripted conversations showed talking about STDs can be natural, approachable and even empowering.
- Spread like wildfire online: We worked in partnership with SoulPancake to publish the video and supporting content on their channels, spreading our message to their young adult audience. SoulPancake's founder, actor Rainn Wilson, and Whitney Cummings also spread the word on their social channels.
- Distribute using paid and influencer: We supported content distribution with a mix of native, intent, video distribution and paid social ads, and even partnered with key influencers to activate a social burst igniting social conversation.
- Capture reporters' attention: STD Awareness Month in April is not typically high on journalists' radars, so we caught their eyes with compelling assets – access to Whitney Cummings, the hero video and statistical instagraphics. We coupled these with a passionate patient's story and healthcare provider perspectives.
- Partner with authority organizations: We enlisted the support of other health organizations, including Planned Parenthood and the CDC, providing them with a social media playbook and instagraphics to champion YES Means TEST across their channels.
All activities directed to YESmeansTEST.org, a one-stop shop that broke down testing myths and prominently featured a clinic locator so visitors could take the first step towards getting tested—our ultimate KPI.
We empowered young people to get tested! Here's how…
We drove awareness with authenticity:
- Our video featuring Whitney Cummings racked up 3.6M paid and organic views in less than ten weeks, blowing past SoulPancake's guaranteed 500K views in four days!
- More than 70% of our secured placements appeared in outlets read directly by our audience, including Refinery29, People Magazine, Elite Daily, Bustle, Ebony, Black Doctor and the front page of USA Today, reaching 111 million total readers.
- Our paid media strategy, including social ads, outperformed CTR benchmarks in four key channels. Notably, our Facebook paid ads contributed to 77% of landing page visits and 43% of clinic locator clicks.
- Our social burst increased social conversation on Twitter with 937 posts reaching more than 2M unique accounts.
- Our social content was promoted by 16 similar health organizations, including Planned Parenthood and the CDC, leading to more than 900 additional social engagements.
- Healthcare providers were so impressed with the program they requested materials for their exam rooms and asked to play our video in their waiting rooms!
We inspired action: Young people got tested. Our landing page received an impressive 107K visits with 6,123 users looking for a clinic in their area, establishing a strong conversion rate of 5.6%.
And we're going bigger in 2018: The conversation is just getting started. Beyond launch, we are expanding the program into a second year, bringing in new voices and creating fresh content to shatter the barriers to testing.
Video for #YESmeansTEST: Empowering Sexually Active Young Adults to Get Tested for STDs