To Promote Family Planning, Let’s Have More Controversy

November 13, 2013 • Family Planning, News

To Promote Family Planning, Let’s Have More Controversy

Some 20 years ago in the Philippines, DKT International launched an advertisement for strawberry-scented Trust condoms. An archbishop of the Catholic Church, a man incongruously named Cardinal Sin, quickly condemned the ad as an illicit promotion of sex.

In 1997, when I was working in Ethiopia on a family planning project, we introduced a second brand of condom, called “Sensation,” to the marketplace. The blue package featured a Caucasian couple embracing on a beach in their swimwear. Ministry of Health officials summoned me to their offices and ordered me to stop all promotion and sales, questioning why Ethiopia, or any country, would need more than one condom brand (the government was still heavily influenced by Socialist approaches to the economy). My first instinct was to ask them why any man would need more than one shirt.

In July of 2013, a condom commercial in Pakistan broke new ground by gently suggesting that the use of Josh condoms had enabled a homely man to marry a supermodel. After 10 days on air, the ad was pulled by the regulatory authorities, which deemed the ad indecent.

While some public health advocates might suggest that a more nuanced approach to condom promotion would have been better, I disagree. Why? In all three instances, some very positive public health outcomes emerged – especially for consumers.

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