‘Rules of a f***buddy’ is the latest campaign from DDB NZ and Ending HIV – a community-focused behaviour change programme run by the New Zealand AIDS Foundation (NZAF) to reach men who have sex with men (MSM).
Says Michael Shaw, marketing, communications and fundraising manager for Ending HIV: “As a sex-positive organisation that engages individuals at high-risk of HIV, we know that we need to use language that our community uses – which means we sometimes use vocab that might make your nana blush. For example, f***buddies!
“We wanted to create something that was really sexy and wouldn’t get lost in the noise. We’re talking about enjoying sex as safely as possible – so we want to make sure it’s portrayed in a positive and relatable way.”
Together with DDB, Ending HIV has created a series of joyously sexy images and paired them with rules encountered in f***buddy relationships and HIV prevention – sourced from our community.
This message is going to be hard to miss – with posters and billboards lining the streets, banners on dating apps and promotions across social media, reaching f***buddies across Aotearoa.
Being up against significant advertising-standard challenges, an online content hub was needed to make sure the message could be shared in all its risqué glory, without asterisks or duct-tape.
Says Shaw: “A key part of this was creating a website that would serve as the uncensored home of our content, and a way to engage the community and generate more rules – which will feed directly back into a second wave of the campaign.”
Hadyn Kerr, digital creative director at DDB, says the team were excited by the brief: “The New Zealand AIDS Foundation is rare in their willingness to embrace the truth, not only about what is happening in the real world, but also the truth about what kind of campaigns people will actually engage with. So many campaigns seek to be interactive, but this is one of the few campaigns to actually achieve it.
“In particular, one of the real joys of was working with real talent that NZAF sourced to appear in the photography. The guys were so brave and open and willing to share anything to help the cause.”
Ending HIV is aware this is going to ruffle some feathers, but it’s important to speak the language of those who need the message most.
2018 survey data found that around 30% of the men who have sex with men (MSM) surveyed said their main sexual partner was a f***buddy. Among this group, the top reason for not using prevention with these partners was trusting their partner’s HIV and STI status.
Says Shaw: “We’re definitely not discouraging trust but are encouraging ownership of your own sexual health. Let’s be honest, your casual partner is likely not your only partner and you aren’t theirs – that’s a whole sexual network largely relying on another person knowing their sexual health status in real-time – when window periods for STI and HIV testing can confuse things.
“This campaign is a way to inspire candid conversations about negotiating HIV prevention with f***buddies, by making them a part of the rules you’re likely already setting for the relationship. So, ‘you can’t sleep over’ becomes ‘you can’t sleep over and you bring the condoms’.”
New Zealand AIDS Foundation (Ending HIV):
Michael Shaw, Marketing, Communications and Fundraising Manager Anthony Walton, Marketing and Communications Lead
Victoria Walsh: Marketing Coordinator
Photographer: Mara Sommer
Agency: DDB New Zealand
Media Agency: Mediacom