YouthAIDS founder Kate Roberts is marketing safe sex to the masses.
Drink Coke. Chew gum. Wear a condom. To Kate Roberts, the British-born mastermind behind the AIDS-awareness organization YouthAIDS, there should be no difference in the way these messages are presented. If consumer products can be sold to the masses, why can't social responsibility? "It's the same strategy," she says. "You have to make something desirable, available, and affordable."There's no question that Roberts, 40, knows how to sell. In the mid-1990s, at the Moscow and Bucharest branches of the advertising agency Saatchi & Saatchi, she spearheaded campaigns to promote products like soda and cigarettes to the youth of newly capitalist Russia and Romania. While living in Eastern Europe, Roberts made the party circuit, dated a Romanian rock star, and even endured a kidnapping attempt by the Russian mafia, but her whirlwind high-society life took an unexpected turn in 1997, when she was approached by the nonprofit Public Services International to develop a pro bono advertising campaign for AIDS awareness in Romania.As with her commercial work, Roberts's goal was to make the youth market crave what she was selling-in this case, a decidedly unglamorous product: condoms. "We would take a packet of unbranded condoms and completely revamp it," she says. "We'd give it a name, give it an image, and make the product desirable. Because these promotions were done in a very cool and hip and relevant way, the kids were more likely to use this condom." Thanks to her campaign-which included a documentary film, a TV show, and a series of underground parties-condom use in Romania doubled.
|Today's youth never saw those really scary, in-your-face, aggressive PSAs.|