Watch What Happens When You Ask Models To Make Malaria Sexy

It’s the oldest trick in the book: Use sex and humor to sell something. But in this case, it gets a sobering–and hilarious–twist.

The typical PSA takes a “sadvertising” approach and tells a tragic story, hoping audiences will be moved enough to actually do something to help.


This ad for Save the Children manages to be funny instead, while still sharing an unhappy Mother’s Day message–60 million women and children around the world are stuck living in areas of armed conflict or natural disaster, and around 800 mothers die each day.

“Save the Children came to us with an idea–let’s use sex to spread the word about a very unsexy issue,” says Josh Rubin, one of the directors from Big Block Live, the creative studio that put together the ad. “We thought, let’s bring in a bunch of sexy models and have them say these sort of ridiculously vapid fragrance commercial-like things, only to sort of be blindsided by horrible statistics about maternal deaths.”

As the models read through cue cards like “What is sexy?” and “What are your deepest desires?” suddenly they’re confronted with facts about children dying from preventable causes. A director coaches them to keep going.

“It was sort of fun to watch the director go, ‘Can you just make diarrhea a little sexier?’” says Rubin. “We were on set playing clients and it was really fun to jump in and say, ‘So sorry to be the annoying client, guys, but could you just put a little more feeling behind malaria? Just really make it sexy?’ It was a great catharsis because we usually deal with commercials for things like kitty litter.”

In the end, they hope that making deadly diseases sound hilarious might help more people pay attention–and donate–when they otherwise might have been watching videos about celebrity gossip or cats.

“We know the Internet is kind of a harsh landscape for serious issues sometimes,” says Vince Peone, co-director at Big Block Live. “We knew if we wanted to get people’s attention we needed to take risks.”

About the author

Adele Peters is a staff writer at Fast Company who focuses on solutions to some of the world's largest problems, from climate change to homelessness. Previously, she worked with GOOD, BioLite, and the Sustainable Products and Solutions program at UC Berkeley.