Multimedia Case Study: Foreplay Edition


Question: how does a marketer get Millenials to think seriously about their own sexual health?

An ongoing campaign called “beforeplay” (get it?), created by ad shop Vermilion and promoted by Bluetone Marketing & PR for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, tasked the agencies with answering that question.

The larger goal was incredibly ambitious: to reduce the number of STDs and unintended pregnancies in the state of Colorado (which had one of the highest rates in the country).

How did they go about it?

The campaign grew from a partnership between the CDPHE and the Colorado Initiative to Reduce Unintended Pregnancy, which hired Vermilion to create related ad materials. The agency fashioned a series of outdoor and TV/radio spots and went with Bluetone to help expand awareness of the campaign via press coverage and a strong social media presence. Here are more billboards:



By combining the educational/consumer interest aspects of the campaign with provocative taglines like the ones above, the agencies won coverage in over 200 outlets including USA Today, The Denver Post, WestWord and all major Colorado broadcast news outlets. Here’s an example of local TV coverage with the headline “Beforeplay Rethinks Sex Ed.

The social media memes, created by Vermilion and distributed by Bluetone, were even edgier and helped word of the campaign spread:



Another bit of invaluable earned media came via Governor John Hickenlooper. Hard to improve on a headline that reads “Colorado Teen Birthrate Plummets“, even if the trend began before the campaign itself.

Here, via Jonathan Abramson of Bluetone, are three lessons learned from the campaign:

“1. Know your Audience: We geared the theme of “Just Talk About It” to our target audience of 18-29 year olds.

2. Utilize Bloggers:  With a progressive and edgy campaign it was crucial to leverage sexual health bloggers to help spread the very sharable content and messaging.

3. Partner Up:  We have a great relationship with the digital media agency, Vermilion, and they really created highly sharable content such as the Memes and billboards for the campaign.”

The client has been impressed: this week the CDPHE renewed the campaign for at least one year, and this fall it will include a “Keep Sexy Safe” campaign targeting college kids returning to campus and encouraging them to take selfies that include information about how they’re keeping sexy safe.

Should be…intriguing.

@PatrickCoffee Patrick Coffee is a senior editor for Adweek.