Challenge

As category leader, Durex was disproportionately affected by a worrying two-year decline in condom sales in Romania. We were tasked to reverse this, delivering a 6% increase in Durex sales (450K condoms).

It was critical that Durex owned the category transformation, targeting an increase in Brand Attribution of 5%.

Insights

In 2019, the younger generation in Romania was in the grip of a sexual health crisis;

  • The highest teen pregnancy rate of any EU country
  • Top 10 places in Europe for STIs, with over 5% of the population infected

Despite condoms having wide distribution (retail, pharmacies and online) and unmissable category advertising on TV and digital, this wasn’t translating into action. Two thirds of Romanians (67%) said they knew about birth control methods, but didn’t use them. What was going on?

The answer lies in Romania’s Soviet past; the communist regime entrenched a highly conservative view of sexual relationships that remains to this day. Sex outside of marriage is frowned upon, with abstinence considered the alternative.

 

As a result, Romania is one of only eight EU member states without a sexual health education strategy; young adult Romanians simply don’t receive the information they need on the importance of safe sex, nor have an obvious forum for discussing the topic.

In fact, for 56% of 18-34-year olds, their main way of discussing sex was through joking with friends, but currently safety wasn’t a topic.

Humour may not seem the obvious place to deliver a message about safe sex, but political / social jokes (anekdoty) have a strong history in ex-Soviet countries of being a coping mechanism in times of repression; an important form of social commentary and communication. In order for our safe sex message to resonate with younger consumers, we needed to be in on the joke.

Screenshot 2020-03-25 at 19.09.08

Strategy

We were initially briefed to deliver a “traditional” campaign, using the global TVC & Digital assets, which were focused on scaled brand awareness, and assumed that young people already knew the importance of safe sex.

Given the Romanian-specific social context, we knew this wouldn’t be enough to reverse the sales decline. As the category leader, Durex needed to try something new that would address the education gap, and normalise conversations about condoms.

We proposed a bold approach to truly engage our audience, and stand Durex apart:

  • Focus on influencers with a comedy background, leveraging anekdoty to deliver safe sex messages through humour.
  • Put physical events at the heart of the campaign to maintain the personal / conversational nature of sexual joking amongst young people.
  • Give consumers the tools to make safe sex part of their everyday joke communication beyond the lifespan of the central activations.

We identified comedy shows as the perfect channel for our message as 25% of our target go out at least once/week, over 60% of young adults prefer comedies to any other genre and 40% follow comedians on social media. At these events, we would have their undivided attention, and a medium through which they would be highly receptive to messages about condoms.

To ensure that attendees really felt like part of an organic conversation, jokes would be in “improv” format, where comedians receive suggestions from the audience, and have to create funny responses on the spot. This would only work if the responses were authentic and human, and Durex bravely agreed that the comedians would have full creative license to be as outrageous as they wanted.

In order to ensure scale, the questions and responses would then be turned into bite-size clips, perfect for use in social sharing.

Execution

We partnered with “Ceva Marunt & Una Scurta”, an improv group who are hugely popular with young Romanians (#1 roast video of 2019) for their outrageous, no-limits comedy style, to create a 16-city comedy tour. Tour highlights were turned into short-form videos to expose a wider audience to their irreverent take on the world of safe sex.

The tour was teased across social, using material similar to what attendees could expect at the events. This was the first time humour had been used by a brand for such a sensitive topic locally, and we needed a positive reception. Fortunately, the content was incredibly well-received, with tickets selling out almost immediately; in fact, demand was so high that four additional shows were added to major cities.

 

The comedy shows themselves were the major highlight, providing both a frank and hilarious conversation about safe sex, and incredibly authentic material for those who hadn’t managed to score tickets. To promote action as well as conversation, every attendee was given a free Durex Slimfit condom.

Dedicated video clips were developed for each of the five members of Una Scurta, and used as social ads, digital assets and for in-store promotions.

As well as paid distribution, all of the content was housed on a dedicated section of the Durex site, which not only had jokes about safe sex, but also educational content from the comedians, helping people to choose the right Slimfit product for them.

Results

Not only did we reverse the declining trend for Durex, we reversed the decline for the entire condom category in Romania!

With our bold approach, we drove a 13% increase in Durex sales versus last year – that’s an estimated 1 million instances of safe sex that we provided! (and that’s not counting the 7% sales increase for the category). Brand attribution increased by 10% (100% over our briefed objective).

We had intimate conversations through anekdoty with 9,000 people live during our shows where they absolutely could not miss our condom messaging.

The video assets were the highest performing that Durex had seen in years – 2.2M views with 93% reach (young adults 15-34). That’s 285% higher view rate and 16x higher click through rate than Durex’s benchmark average.

The comedy tour was so successful that Durex and Una Scurta now have a long-term partnership, including featuring the group in the latest TVC and as partners for the next Durex launch.

But our proudest achievement is that we didn’t play it safe. We think the only place for “safe” is when it comes to sex.