Depo-Provera Launches Smarter Sex Education Campaign
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Depo-Provera Launches Smarter Sex Education Campaign

In 2002, Pharmacia Corporation charged MS&L with the task of increasing awareness of Depo-Provera Contraceptive Injection, a highly effective progestin-only injectable contraceptive that is administered only four times per year, among a specific audience – college-age women. However, since Depo-Provera had been on the market for more than 10 years, the PR Team needed to develop a campaign that would capture the interest of national media and college students while conveying the brand’s key attributes.

Paul Holmes

In 2002, Pharmacia Corporation charged MS&L with the task of increasing awareness of Depo-Provera Contraceptive Injection, a highly effective progestin-only injectable contraceptive that is administered only four times per year, among a specific audience – college-age women. However, since Depo-Provera had been on the market for more than 10 years, the PR Team needed to develop a campaign that would capture the interest of national media and college students while conveying the brand’s key attributes.
 Several new non-daily contraceptives options launched in 2002, so contraceptives that mesh better with women’s lifestyles were top of mind with media. After ten years, Depo-Provera is considered an old drug and of less interest to media. But there was an opportunity to create a “new” context for media to want to talk about Depo-Provera.
 Another challenge was that the concept of “Safe Sex” - using a barrier contraceptive to protect against STIs and HIV - was well known among this age group and Depo-Provera does not protect against STIs and HIV, but is highly effective at preventing pregnancy. That created an opportunity to talk about educate students on the need to practice ”Smart Sex”– using a barrier and hormonal contraceptive together to also protect against pregnancy.
 To identify what messages and vehicles would resonate with college students when it came to sex, MS&L conducted research that revealed the following:
· There are two million unintended pregnancies each year among women aged 18-24. This age group accounts for 46 percent of all unintended pregnancies – a startling statistic when considering the vast number of contraceptive options available.
· College-age women forget to take their pills, increasing the chance of an unintended pregnancy. Of 18-24 year olds who are on the pill, almost 20 percent miss one pill during a three-month period.
· College students are more likely to listen to peers and they need more sexual health information. A survey fielded by the Centers for Disease Control in 2000 showed that there are misperceptions about STD transmission, contraceptives and general sexual health facts among this age group. However, students are more likely that other age groups to turn to peers and professionals for help.
· College students like to get information on line. According to a recent survey, 73 percent of college students use the Internet more than the library for research. And, while there are several resources about sexual health available on the web, few address the wide variety of issues that college students face, such as substance abuse and sex, relationships and sex, monogamy, STDs and contraceptives, all in one place.
Third party groups offer sexual health programs – including contraceptive education – but students are not aware of them. Research showed that several groups including the American College Health Association, Planned Parenthood, and the Bacchus & Gamma Peer Education Network (B&G) already had programs and structures in place to reach college students with messages. Yet they needed help getting the word out to students. Also, in-depth discussions revealed that B&G had an extensive 900-campus peer education network, dedicated students and scheduled sex health programs in place, and needed partners to improve their sexual health programs and resources – especially those on-line.
 With the research findings in hand, it was clear that a sexual health web site that addressed the specific needs of college students would be a welcome resource to both peer educators and fellow students. B&G offered the Team direct access to college students on more than 900 campuses across the country, and they were willing to partner on a branded education campaign. With this in mind, the PR Team worked with B&G and Planned Parenthood to create the Smarter Sex Education Campaign. Central to this education effort was the new www.smartersex.org website, to serve as an on-line resource for B&G to provide peer educators with more sex education tools and information to share with fellow students.
B&G provided two spokespeople: Dr. Margaret Bridwell, a board-certified obstetrician and gynecologist and Director of the University of Maryland Student Health Center and Jaime Haak, Student Trustee and peer educator with B&G. The Team media trained both spokespeople to deliver branded messages about the education program and Depo-Provera.
To gain new insight on the sexual knowledge and attitudes of college students, the PR team surveyed 1,051 college students. Key findings included: there are more male virgins in the 18-24 age group than female virgins; one in four college students enters college with no formal sex education; and more than half of college students (62 percent) believe they can tell if someone has a sexually transmitted infection (STI) “just by looking.”
The PR Team worked with B&G and Planned Parenthood to create an online sexual health resource specifically for college students. Key in its development was the need for the site to be branded without affecting the integrity of the information offered. Site topics include smart sex tips, information on contraceptives, STIs, date rape, how alcohol can destroy a sexual encounter, monogamy, virginity and the key features of a healthy relationship.
Interactive aspects include a contraceptive matchmaker that helps women determine which birth control best fits their lifestyle and quizzes about contraceptives and STIs. Links to other sex health sites and organizations are offered as well. Importantly, Depo-Provera ad banners and links to Depo-Provera.com are throughout the site.
On November 13, 2002, MS&L launched the 2002 Smarter Sex Education Campaign nationally at B&G’s annual assembly of more than 1,000 peer educators in Orlando. Spokespeople Dr. Bridwell and Jaime Haak conducted 11 broadcast interviews through a satellite media tour (SMT). Each interview included at least one mention of Depo-Provera, and guided college students and parents to the web site for more information.
These television and radio interviews led to a total of 21 “SmarterSex.org” branded broadcasts in cities such as Baltimore, Phoenix and Hartford. An audio news release, featuring the same spokespeople, reached more than 7 million listeners. Press materials were put on a CD-ROM and sent to health reporters at women’s magazines, web sites and Top 50 newspapers. Pending placements in women’s magazines featuring survey facts and web site include Cosmogirl.
To reach college students, MS&L strategically placed a mat release about the survey and SmarterSex.org in 65 college and university newspapers nationwide. B&G wrote two branded articles about the partnership, web site and campaign for their official monthly publication, The Peer Educator, reaching more than 100,000 students. Additionally, the Team sent SmarterSex.org information, stickers, CD-ROMS, and Depo-Provera information to 1,000 student peer educators as part of a mailing to prepare them for Sexual Responsibility Week, which takes place each February. Using SmarterSex.org as a resource was a key message of the manual that B&G provided to its peer educators nationally.
A consumer Omnibus survey indicated awareness of Depo-Provera increased 6.4 percent among women 18-34 after outreach efforts. Awareness of a birth control injected four times a year increased 11 percent, and the branded Depo-Provera message was delivered in 100 percent of interviews conducted. The total audience reached with branded messages: more than 37 million.
The college newspaper mat release appeared at 65 universities across the country, including the University of Georgia, University of Maryland, and University of California at Santa Barbara, reaching almost 800,000 college students. SmarterSex.org is the official resource that 900+ peer educator campuses are directed to for information about sex education. SmarterSex.org is officially part of all B&G sexual health programs planned for 2003.
More than 12,000 visits have been logged to date. The web site has received extremely positive feedback from students. Says one student peer educator at Idaho State University: “WOW...that is all I can say about the web site...there is sooooooooooooo much information it is almost overwhelming. It is highly interactive, with there being quizzes (I even learned a thing or two...well, I actually learned a bunch). There is so much information that I have not yet been able to sift through it all. The STDs/STIs I found to be very helpful, especially when I have a presentation to do, and I can just go to the web site and print off the pages, rather than bring a whole book. The overall layout is very easy to see, and everything seems user friendly. I see nothing that needs improvement!”
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