The mainstream marketing of safe sex has been happening for the better part of the last 30 years. Over that time we’ve seen just about every approach to talk to especially young people about, to paraphrase Salt N’ Pepa, all the good things and the bad things that may be when it comes to sex.
A new PSA campaign from MTV’s Staying Alive Foundation by agency Y&R New York, takes a decidedly modern approach by taking popular emoji symbols for sex and bringing them to life. Yep, that means people dressed up as a banana and donut, eggplant and peach, pointer finger and okay sign—and gettin’ sexy. The twist is when these freaky pairs are joined in bed by a condom, and the tagline: “Make foreplay a threesome. Add a condom.”
The spot is directed by Oscar-winning film editor Angus Wall and the life-sized emoji costumes were created by Casey Storm. Created without CGI, the woman playing the donut was a circus performer who had to keep her body contorted in oblique crunches for the entire shoot. Along with the PSA, the campaign also includes a condom emoji keyboard built by Snaps.
Y&R New York group creative director and art director Nathalie Brown says sexting is the new foreplay, so the aim was to tap into that behavior. “We know kids are sending each other sexts and pics of their body parts all day,” says Brown. “We could shame it or fight it, or we could use it for good! There are things we all say in a text that we would be way more shy to say in person. This entire campaign is focused on making it easier for the safe sex conversation to take place, as well as to reflect their personal style. Because if you wait to talk about condoms, no one is going to bring condoms.”
Associate creative director and copywriter Kate Lummus says the idea of using sexting was also a way of starting the conversation around safety and condoms long before the clothes come off. “We thought it was a little odd that almost every safe sex PSA talks about using condoms in the moment,” says Lummus. “Kinda late, you think? It turns out no one had thought to talk to kids about talking about condoms ahead of time. Then it was just a matter of what language to use.”