Thine Shot: Forsooth! Wherefore FCB New Zealand Verily Craft’d This Public Awareness Campaign

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Senior creative David Shirley and art director Melina Fiolitakis talk LBB’s Adam Bennett through FCB’s humorous campaign to raise awareness of a disease many believed to be consigned to history
Thine Shot: Forsooth! Wherefore FCB New Zealand Verily Craft’d This Public Awareness Campaign

If you were to tell someone that syphilis is on the rise again, you’d probably be met with incredulity. It’s hard to believe that such an archaic disease could be a 21st century problem, but that is the reality facing New Zealand today.

To raise awareness of the issue, the New Zealand AIDS Foundation (NZAF) and Durex partnered with FCB to produce a campaign aimed at sending the STI back to the dark ages.

The campaign they’ve produced takes modern day dating vernacular and combines it with the 16th century lingo you might be more inclined to associate with syphilis, with hilarious results. You can check out a gallery of the campaign’s images below:

To find out more about the campaign, LBB’s Adam Bennett spoke to FCB New Zealand's David Shirley and Melina Fiolitakis.


LBB> Congratulations on a great campaign! How did you come up with the idea - was it a lightbulb moment?

David and Melina> Thanks Adam! We’re really proud of the work, so it’s great to see it getting such a favourable response. Yeah, it very much was a lightbulb moment. We’d been talking about how mind-blowing it was that this horrible infection we associated with 16th century pirates, hookers and the occasional royal was somehow back. And not just back, but at its highest levels ever. So, the thought came to mind that it was like today’s society was being propositioned by a bygone era: a modern setting, clashing with an out of date character; a modern pick-up line, clashing with Shakespearean language. It all feels wrong.   

 

LBB> What research went into coming up with this campaign? Were there any strategic insights that helped you come to this idea? 

David and Melina> A huge amount of research went into this work. Beyond delving into the infection itself, who was most affected and why, we also threw ourselves into researching the era we wanted to portray. While syphilis has reared its head throughout history, it spread widely through Europe in the 16th century, so that was the era we chose – not only for historical accuracy, but also because the extravagant clothing of the period and the well-known vernacular (made most famous by Shakespeare) made for an interesting clash with our modern settings and hook-up slang.


LBB> What were your aims and ambitions going into the campaign? 

David and Melina> Visually, we wanted to give the campaign such a feeling of authenticity that it would mess with people’s perceptions and provoke them to take a second look. We spent a lot of time looking through portraiture of the 1500s – the lighting, the poses, the costumes, the hair and make-up, the way a scene was composed – and constructed the images from to feel like paintings from the period. When people look closer, we wanted to reward them with another layer of richness and detail that twisted things even more. Is that a fire extinguisher? Has he got a nose piercing? We wanted the clash of eras to be obvious, but to also blend harmoniously together, with more to be discovered the more you look.

In terms of our ambitions for the overall campaign, we were astounded that no one knew about this problem in New Zealand. Not only did people not know about it, but didn’t know how to prevent it, how to treat it, or that because it can be symptomless they might not even know they have it. So, our greatest hope is that people come to the realisation that syphilis is very preventable, very treatable, and there’s no reason we can’t kick its ass back to the dark ages.


LBB> What kind of reception has the campaign received? 

David and Melina> The reaction has been incredible. From the genuine excitement and generosity of those who’ve made this campaign happen, to the reactions of people in the LGBTQI+ community, to news media, we’re blown away by how much love there has already been for this campaign, despite having only just launched. It’s really very humbling.


LBB> What made Ross Brown the right choice as photographer for the campaign? 

David and Melina> Ross is such a meticulous and talented photographer. His portfolio of work is so impressive, and we love the way he lights people and scenes, giving them such a painterly feel – we knew we would need his craft to pull off our clash of eras. Working with him has been an amazing collaboration – we all shared the same vision and he brought it to life beautifully. We can’t thank Ross, Lucy Jane Senior (stylist), Abi Taylor (hair and makeup), and the team at Match Photographers enough.


LBB> The campaign is hilarious - what made you go with the humorous tone to highlight this serious issue?

David and Melina> Telling people off, or trying to scare them, rarely works when you’re trying to create behaviour change. We wanted to create something unusual and confronting, but also something that people would remember, engage with and think favourably of. Humour is such a powerful tool. It’s not about making light of a serious issue. It’s about making it accessible and turning it into something people are open to talking about.

 

LBB> What were the most difficult elements and how did you overcome them? 

David and Melina> The most challenging elements of this campaign were the ones we forced on ourselves. We set out to create something unique and so heavily-crafted that it demanded a lot of our time and energy. It became a relentless search for the perfect painting reference, the perfect model, the perfect costume, and location after location after location. There’s only two ways to go – you can give up, or you double-down and commit even more of your time and energy. We went with the latter, because the alternative was getting to the end of the project and thinking to ourselves, “If only we hadn’t compromised on that!”


LBB> Any parting thoughts?

David and Melina> We’re so grateful to everyone who has joined us on this journey. People have been incredibly generous with their time and their talents. We hope all of them are as proud of the work as we are, and that the campaign makes a real difference by relegating syphilis to the history books.

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Categories: Health care, Beauty & Health

FCB NZ, 6 months ago