Marika Barbie + [Public Awareness]

New STD Campaign in Omaha will make your skin crawl


If a picture is worth a thousand words, a new campaign needs very few. A month-long sexually transmitted disease (STD) prevention campaign just launched this week throughout Omaha. The campaign makes use of a cringe-worthy, custom font that resembles infected flesh with phrases like “His and herpes,” “Ignorance is blisters” and “What’s the warts that could happen?” which will appear on billboards, bus advertisements, digital ads and social media channels. Serve Marketing, the country’s only all-volunteer advertising agency, developed the unconventional marketing campaign with the goal to help bring down infection rates, which are at historic levels.


The effort, which is led by the Women’s Fund of Omaha, whose new Adolescent Health Project is working to curb STDs in Omaha, is in response to Omaha’s shockingly high STD rate. In Douglas County, rates of infection are 30 to 50 percent higher than the national average. According to the Health Department, cases of chlamydia reached an all-time high in 2014. Cases of gonorrhea and syphilis are up by 15 and 23 percent. Those numbers are highest among those ages 15 to 24.

"We know from experience that when you're trying to change dangerous youth behaviors, sometimes you have to make your audience uncomfortable with their inaction. So we purposely dialed up the "ick" factor with this fourth campaign and we intended it to be more of a wakeup call to the fact that with some partners you may get more than you bargained for." said Gary Mueller, volunteer creative director at Serve Marketing, the nonprofit advertising agency hired to create the provocative campaign.

Creative Credits:
Ad Agency: Serve
Executive Creative Director: Gary Mueller
CD/Art Director: Matt Hermann

FYI: Serve is the only all-volunteer, nonprofit advertising agency, whose mission is to give underserved charitable causes a stronger voice in the community. Since 2002, Serve volunteers have created behavior-changing public service campaigns for over 50 local and national nonprofit causes from Shaken Baby Syndrome, statutory rape and teen homelessness to foster care, gun violence and teen pregnancy. Most recently, Serve's work was honored by the White House for its role in helping reduce teen pregnancy in Milwaukee.