In 1988, AIDS was a mysterious, terrifying and fatal disease. Misinformation and paranoia about AIDS was spreading faster than the disease itself. To help prevent the disease and get the real facts to the public, the State of Michigan put out an RFP for a $1 million AIDS prevention campaign—a brave and farsighted move by Governor Jim Blanchard and marketing program managers Jean Chabut and Jan Ruff.
Virtually every ad agency in Michigan was in the hunt for the groundbreaking assignment. Reporter Rick Ratliff from the Detroit Free Press chose to follow Brogan Kabot in our quest, sitting in on brainstorming sessions, writing about our preparation process and even attending the pitch itself.
Amazingly, our tiny shop won the contract against giants like J. Walter Thompson, and we made the cover of the Free Press Sunday Magazine.
Our first goal: mitigate fear and ignorance of the disease and its sufferers. We created print ads that clarified what AIDS is and how it is transmitted. And we developed an empathetic TV spot featuring an actual AIDS patient and his partner, to humanize the face of AIDS for Michigan viewers.
Over the next several years, we used research and focus groups to develop compelling messages to teens, prostitutes, gay men, sex partners of heterosexual and gay men, and Hispanic and African American populations. Our approach varied: we used empathy, concern for family and out-and-out scare tactics.
We even used humor… and advertising on urinal mats.
The campaign got thousands of at-risk individuals into state testing facilities, helped change attitudes towards AIDS and its patients and was featured by the national Centers for Disease Control as a successful model. Brogan Kabot received a shelf full of awards for the campaign. But most importantly, we had the opportunity to use our marketing skills to do good, make a difference and actually save lives. How many advertisers can say that?
Tell us about your favorite do-good advertising, and to see the rest of the 30 Best of Brogan, visit our original post in this series: Celebrating 30 years of creative advertising.