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AIDS to get marketing boost

Some of the world's foremost advertising and marketing agencies will employ their creative services free of charge in order to boost AIDS awareness

A multi-media, global campaign, driven by seven of the world's foremost advertising and marketing agencies, will support a United Nations-led initiative to raise awareness of AIDS and stamp out outmoded perceptions of the disease and its transmission.

Drugs for treating AIDS have improved immeasurably, turning a quick killer into a controlled condition, since the first case reared its head around 25 years ago. However, in some parts of the world, stigma and discrimination still reside, hampering efforts to educate sufferers and help those at risk.

In an attempt to break through this `layer of ignorance', some of the world's foremost marketing and advertising agencies will come together to fight the AIDS stigma, as part of an venture devised by Sir Martin Sorrell, chief executive of global marketing group, WPP.

Participating companies, including Cake, Grey, JWT, Lowe Worldwide, Ogilvy, Wieden & Kennedy, and Y&R, will collaborate in producing awareness-boosting campaigns, for which the rights will be made available free of charge to media outlets around the world on-air, online and on-mobile. Each will produce a new spot to be premiered on World AIDS Day, on December 1.

ìIf this initiative is successful, it would be fantastic as awareness about HIV is essential in preventing its spread,î Bonita de Boer, of Avert, an international HIV and AIDS charity, told Pharmaceutical Marketing. ìPeople need to be made aware of what HIV and AIDS is and that it is everybody's responsibility to protect themselves.î

She noted: ìIn the UK, there have been no major campaigns on HIV in many years. Radio One has been running a campaign on sexually transmitted infection and condom use, but I think, with regard to HIV, people have become very complacent because they assume that it is a problem for Africa now, rather than a problem for the UK -?but anyone can become infected.î

Bill Roedy, vice-chairman of MTV Networks, has asked media owners to provide free airtime and advertising space to support the agencies' work. ìThis is the first time we have gone to the agencies. AIDS is the worst epidemic in history, but preventable and treatable, and the media should be doing much more,î he commented in the Financial Times.

The official plans for the action are announced officially today (Wednesday June 21) when some of the world's top marketing and media executives attend the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival.

ìThere is still a lot of stigma and discrimination around HIV which, in some countries, is absolutely appalling -?you still have people being thrown out of their homes and losing their jobs if they're found to have HIV,î added de Boer.

Sentiments in the UK are much improved on the 1980's levels, as people are now more openly acknowledged to have equal rights and, de Boer pointed out, ìit is enshrined within the Disability Act that you cannot discriminate against someone because of their HIV-positive statusî.

ì[But] that needs to be adopted everywhere, globally, because there are still places where stigma and discrimination are a terrible problem.î

Since the United Nations launched a global media initiative, in 2004, more than 130 media companies are thought to have made contributions across 69 countries.

Sir Martin described the ìtest of talentî in advertising and marketing is ìthe power to persuadeî, noting that ìthere has never been a tougher test that this one, nor one more critical.î

2nd September 2008

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