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A condom for a life

How to communicate about AIDS without making you cry


I said I would focus my blog on positive thoughts and hope. But I cannot talk about non-profit communication if I don’t talk about AIDS.

In 1986, the AdCouncil released the first prevention campaign against AIDS. They were the first commercial to use the word “condom”. They wanted to shock people, in order to raise public awareness. They were the first one to talk directly and frankly about contraception, whereas it was a real taboo at the time.

Until today, AIDS communication campaigns kept dealing with this trend. I think that together with road safety campaigns, they are the most shocking and even psychologically disturbing ones we can find. I know that it is difficult to talk about such a serious issue with light words: but sometimes, being too dark just brings rejection from the audience.

Then, I wanted to show you in this article that there are other ways to communicate about AIDS. When I was in High School, we studied a French prevention operation which is still stuck in my mind. This is what I wanna share with you today. Because humour can also be a great way to touch your audience.

This operation was called “3000 scenarios contre un virus” (“3000 scenarios against a virus”, I know it was not really difficult to understand, but let’s be professional.) It is quite an old campaign now, because it was released in 1993. But unfortunately, AIDS did not disappear within the 21st Century.

Thousands of high school students were asked to write a scenario for a preventive spot announcement. 3000 were selected, and 31 were actually directed. Famous French directors and actors volunteered, and worked together to create these short movies. Among them Gérard Jugnot (The Chorus), Cédric Klapisch (The Spanish Apartment), Jane Birkin…

Here is a link so you can watch the most famous one, entitled Poisson rouge (Gold Fish), directed by Cédric Klapisch. I am sorry, I couldn’t find any version with English subtitles, but you don’t need it to understand the story.

(If you really did not understand here is the story = A young woman is moving out of her boyfriend's apartment after a fight, that is why she is carrying a fishbowl with a goldfish in it. She barely avoids getting hit by a car, but she drops the bowl, it breaks, and consequently the fish lays in the road. It is dying, she realizes that there is a pharmacy really closed, and she runs into it. She asks for a condom, but the chemists are shocked by her request, and the other people queuing have to help her. A man finally opens the condom, a woman puts water in it, and then the fish. It is saved, and the young woman kisses the condom in a really suggestive way. Eventually she is back on the street, and keeps going her way.)

In the end, the slogan is written: “Un préservatif peut sauver une vie”, or “A condom can save a life”.

I really like this short movie. It is not sad, not psychologically violent: it is funny, but touching, and it makes the viewer think a lot. I also really admire the audacity of the director, in this particular moment.

This picture is obviously suggestive. The director dared using the word condom many times in the movie, and even shot a woman kissing one. 20 years ago, it was not easy, and it is a really good way to directly talk to people, and familiarize them with contraception without scaring them.

If you liked this movie, don’t hesitate to go watch the others videos of the campaign!

And remember, A CONDOM CAN SAVE A LIFE, so don’t mess up!

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