'F**k HPV,' Sex-Charged Publicis Health Campaign Tells Gen Z

Last year, after CEO Arthur Sadoun’s was successfully treated for human papilloma virus (HPV), Publicis Groupe ended its holiday video with a call-to-action: “Let’s get protected against HPV … in 2023!”

Now, with the 2023 holiday season here, Publicis Health Media and sister agency Digitas Health have teamed with nonprofit Fuck Cancer on a PSA campaign encouraging Gen Z to get vaccinated against the virus, which can lead to genital warts and even cancer.

Past HPV campaigns, like this one from St. Jude, have largely targeted parents of preteens, because getting vaccinated at that age will prevent future transmission.



Such HPV transmission is likely to occur via sex -- HPV is now the most common sexually transmitted disease. Hence, the Publicis/Digitas/F Cancer campaign uses sex to sell its case.

“This campaign is unique to HPV education/prevention as it targets people who are actually engaging in the behavior, not their parents,” a Publicis Health spokesperson tells Pharma & Health Insider.

The new ads feature diverse, sexy images accompanying the message that “It doesn’t matter who you are or what you’re into, HPV F’s Everybody.” That’s followed by such lines as “Stop the spread. Get the shot. Keep doing you.”

“HPV can be eliminated through vaccination and Gen Z holds the key, especially young men who are far less likely to be vaccinated,” Alison McConnell, chief marketing officer, Publicis Health Media, tells Pharma & Health Insider.“Targeting all 18–26-year-olds who are sexually active (or who want to be), the campaign behaves just like its audience: honest, bold and unbounded by tradition.”

“For a generation that doesn’t discriminate, it’s important they realize that HPV doesn’t either,” adds Ben Mallory, executive vice president/creative director, Digitas Health. “That’s what the campaign communications: It doesn’t matter who you are or what you’re into, if you’re not vaccinated, you’re at risk.”

The Publicis spokesperson points out that although Gen Z is “the largest and most influential generation, cares a lot about causes and is dedicated to driving change for good, large gaps in HPV vaccinations exist in this segment.”

To reach them, the campaign began this week in out-of-home locations on nearly 150 college campuses and in nearly 150 malls in major markets, on lifestyle websites (e.g., Thrillist, PopSugar, Grindr) and on Verywell Health. Audio ads and placements in point-of-care locations will follow as the campaign runs through early 2024.

Digitas Health handles all creative, which includes both videos and static ads, while Publicis Health Media spearheaded the campaign and handles media strategy and placement.

Fuck Cancer becomes the latest nonprofit social impact partner of #PHMLove, Publicis Health Media’s “platform for good.” Its previous partner was The Trevor Project, which works to prevent suicides in the LGBTQ population.

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