FCB tackles Syphilis

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AUCKLAND, Today: Syphilis? That’s something from hundreds of years ago, right? “That,” says FCB CCO Tony Clewett, “is the general reaction when you talk to people about New Zealand’s very real, and very 21st-century problem with this archaic sexually transmitted infection.”

Syphilis has become such a problem in this country, that it’s now at its highest levels ever. In fact, syphilis diagnoses have increased from approximately 200 in 2014 to over 1500 last year.  

With the help of FCB, the NZ AIDS Foundation and Durex are setting out to tackle this problem in a concerted attempt to put it back where it belongs – in the dark ages. 

“Syphilis is not something many people thought they’d have to worry about in their lifetimes, so there’s a real lack of knowledge about it,” says foundation comms manager Mickey Power.

“People are not schooled up on its symptoms, the way it’s transmitted or how to find out if they have contracted it.

“We’re is on a mission to end new HIV transmissions in Aotearoa by 2025, which largely affects gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men.

“Given 70% of new syphilis cases are also being seen in our communities, we knew we had some work to do increasing knowledge and testing to help keep them safer and bring those new diagnosis numbers down.”

“The campaign task is to educate, and that reaction of, “Really? Syphilis is still a thing?” became the insight.”

“The AIDS Foundation and Durex make a concerted attempt to put the problem back where it belongs – in the dark ages.”

Clewett said: “The campaign focuses on creating a ‘clash of eras’. We took modern hook-up language and situations, and inserted a character out of time – someone in 16th-century garb, looking to proposition partners.

“Modern pick-up lines, such as Down to fuck? have been given a Shakespearean makeover (Art thee down to fornicate?) Even Kiwi classics took on a dated feel – Dost thou wanteth a root?

“In the dating app, Grindr, the campaign borrows from the vernacular of the medium, as men-out-of-time proposition users with lines like Upeth to? and May I behold thine aubergine?

“As this campaign is aimed at helping LGBTIQ+ community members play safer, the talent was sourced from these communities. Working with models like drag queen and activist Medulla Oblongata, further added to the authenticity of the message.

“The historic look was achieved in collaboration with the Pop-up Globe Theatre and stylist Lucy Jane Senior. Authentic period costumes were created for each model and Abi Taylor provided era-appropriate hair and make-up, including a bespoke wig made for Medulla in the style of Queen Elizabeth I.

“Combine these meticulous details with the artful lighting and skill of photographer Ross Brown, and the result is portraits that look like they stepped out of a 16th century painting, contrasted by undeniably modern backdrops.”

Power said: “Syphilis is very dangerous and can eventually be fatal if left untreated, so we teamed up with FCB to raise awareness about this outbreak in a way that would get our communities’ attention. Syphilis can often be symptomless – so the main message is for people to get tested regularly.”

Placements include Out of Home, Digital, Social, Direct (with the condom wrappers).”


Client: NZ Aids Foundation
Marketing, Communications & Fundraising Manager: Mickey Power
Durex Brand & Trade Marketing Manager: Sandy Chan
Agency: FCB New Zealand
Production Company: Match Photography
Photographer: Ross Brown
Producer: Jess Turney
Stylist and Wardrobe: Lucy Jane Senior
Hair and Makeup: Abi Taylor
Retoucher: Jason King | Sixty Four

About FCB
With more than 140 years of communications expertise, FCB’s worldwide network spans 150 offices in 90 countries, with over 8,000 people, and is part of the Interpublic Group of Companies (NYSE:IPG). For more information, visit www.fcb.com. Follow us on Twitter and Instagram (@FCBglobal) and Facebook (FCB Global).

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