Spread the love!
Spread the love!
“Finding that special symptom can be hard. PlentyofSyph.com makes it easy,” boasts the recently created fictitious dating website designed to raise awareness about symptoms of syphilis and other sexually transmitted infections. As STD/STI rates have been continuously rising in Alberta since 2002, Alberta Health Services (AHS) and Alberta Health and Wellness (AHW) have teamed up with ad agency Calder Batemen to bring this $2 million ad campaign to the web and media outlets nationwide. Causing a lot of controversy since the project launched in June 2011,PlentyofSyph.com has been called a “brilliant parody,” but has also been criticized for stigmatizing people with STIs and being “unlikely to promote behavior change”. When creating an awareness campaign for a taboo topic such as sexually transmitted infections, marketing strategies, potential outcomes, and unintended consequences must be considered and evaluated. While the creators have received some disapproval from various places, sex-ed experts and government officials are praising the innovative campaign.
The website is a play off hugely popular dating websites like PlentyofFish.com, with mock dating profiles that overtly state the stage of infection for each member. “It is totally the intent that this would be a satire,” said the project’s spokeswoman Micky Elabdi. “It’s outrageous. It’s quite risqué and fairly explicit in some of the profiles.” With a target audience of youth aged 16-24, the campaigned takes a different approach with social media in attempts to reach the tech-savvy generation. Some people are calling this tongue-and-cheek website degrading, but the exaggeration, mocking, and stereotyping nature of this parody site is doing exactly what it’s intended to – attract attention to its message. When I first saw the website, my initial reaction was “is this a joke?” But after some looking around and reading the information on the website, I realized the creators are actually quite clever. Before entering the site, it asks you to provide the “what you’re looking for” information similar to most dating sites. (Side note: It allows you to select “Looking for a Man or Woman”, being one of the very few “dating” websites to allow for bisexuality.) From there, the profiles all ultimately lead the viewer to the Help/Info page – where helpful information about symptoms, treatment and prevention tips are provided.
The campaign has led to some positive results, as Dr. Andre Corriveau, the chief medical officer for AHW, notes that there have been more people show up for testing in both Calgary and Edmonton. The biggest complaint about the website thus far has come from Plenty of Fish (POF) patrons – “While we believe educating the public about sexually transmitted diseases is imperative, such blatant disrespect for a private company’s brand is shocking,” Kate Bilenki, chief operating officer of POF, said in an email. Sure, some could see this is a cheeky attack on dating websites, but it’s more a genius marketing strategy to parody something so relevant and trendy in pop culture. And PlentyofSyph is not alone – Herpesfish.com and Positivefish.com are two more similar faux-websites created by PositiveSingles.com to raise awareness about STDs/STIs and act as a information network for people living with STDs/STIs.
I think the unique campaign is creative, informative, and effective. The Edmonton Journalcalled it “Edgy. Bold. Sexually Explicit. Wickedly Ironic.” Failure to warn or educate the public about the existence, transmission, and prevention of such diseases puts the public at risk. With the public constantly being bombarded with various similar campaigns, one needs to stand out and be original to have their message heard – I feel like PlentyofSyph did exactly that. And to all those who complained from POF about negative scare tactics
With all due respect, the folks at Plenty of Fish need to look up the word “satire” in the dictionary. When you run a online introduction service for “sexy singles” who post their profiles under names like “Love_ Dr_2012” and “xxcanadianguyxx”, your “quality brand” opens itself to a little healthy parody -especially in the name of public health.