Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Sex sells... even in Social Marketing?

NHS Portsmouth have just launched a new internet-based video to help encourage young women and especially young men, to visit the dentist. Rather than the usual straight laced, po faced approach you might expect, this one has... well, shall we say a little more bite!

Watch the video below, but be warned, it's somewhat of a racy affair.

Phew! Has Social Marketing ever been so sexy? Either way, judging from the figures on it's Youtube page, it's certainly managing to spread the message. In little over a week since it was published, it's been viewed a staggering 95,000 times, which is a great number for such a campaign. To illustrate this, just look at the figures for the other videos on NHS Portsmouth's youtube channel. I'm sure they're all fine films in their own right, but despite this, the nearest number to their latest effort is just 104 views... and that's over 7 months.

So, why have they had so much more success with the new film? It doesn't take a marketing genius to make a confident guess that the answer is sex. Whether by individual sharing through Social Media channels or the numerous blogs and news agencies that have embedded the video, it's all drawn attention and brought viewers.

It's yet to be seen if the key outcome to increase visitors to the dentist in Portsmouth will be achieved, but getting it seen by so many is a great move towards that.

Sex does sell, as Advertising and Marketing agencies have always known and exploited for all it's worth. Over the years, sex has been used to flog virtually anything and everything, from french fries to foot cream. It's marketing gold; it grabs and holds the attention, gets talked about, and often makes the consumer believe they'll be more attractive by choosing such a sexy brand.

But sex is a goldmine that Social Marketers have to be very careful about mining. It may offer huge benefits, but is it always appropriate? Quite patently, no. While dental hygiene can quite easily be associated with sexual appeal, for other areas it just won't work. Campaigns aimed at children would obviously be out, as would, say, cancer screening.

Many subjects could work though. Sexual health is an obvious fit. Smoking cessation and drug abuse could be put within a similar context to the video above, as could obesity. All should be handled with care and sensitivity, but if it gets the message out, it's seriously worth considering.

Given the risk of being seen to trivialise and titillate, verging on exploitation, I'd say the video above is a brave move by Portsmouth NHS, but one that should be applauded for it's innovation. Early signs indicate that it's going to pay off, but time will tell. If it does, will others follow suit, ushering in an strange new era of sexy Social Marketing? Just a thought...

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