Created through a joint initiative between Marie Stopes Australia, the Victorian Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organization (VACCHO), and the Mildura Aboriginal Health Service, the ‘Snake Condom’ social marketing campaign was designed to promote condom use and reduce STIs amongst Indigenous youth. Formative research conducted with members of this target audience (Indigenous youth aged 16-30) served as the foundation for campaign development. The three main strategies employed to achieve campaign goals were (1) improve access to condoms, (2) address social and cultural barriers to condom use in Indigenous communities, and (3) develop a new condom brand which was appealing to Indigenous people. The ‘snake’ brand was selected because it acted as a powerful metaphor for male genitalia and also provided a familiar close-to-nature allegory that helped to facilitate safe-sex messages – just as precautions must be taken when handling snakes, precautions should also be taken to protect oneself when having sex. In addition to establishing this brand, the campaign strengthened its identity and ties to the Indigenous community by ensuring that all campaign materials, from posters and t-shirts to the condoms themselves, were produced in the colors of the aboriginal flag. The condoms were introduced through an event called ‘Snakefest’, which brought the community together. After the launch, snake condoms were made available to community members at different locations including traditional retail outlets, late night eateries, burger vans, pubs, and cafes. This campaign also employed condom distributers known as ‘snake charmers’, who were members of the community that were trained to act as peer educators. Snake charmers increased access to condoms by making them discreetly available at parties and other venues where the target audience liked to gather, and also acted as a peer resource for sexual health information. To ensure that the condoms were valued and not perceived as cheap, they were sold at an affordable price that allowed the snake charmers to make a profit, while remaining proceeds were used to ensue project sustainability. Convenience Advertising was used to assist with the overall promotion of campaign messages. A total of 260 messages designed to increase awareness of the Snake Condom brand and the need to practice safe sex were placed in Indigenous-specific and Indigenous-relevant venues such as sports clubs, schools, community health centres, hostels, youth refuges, needle and syringe exchange facilities, licensed venues and shopping centres.
Intercept interviews, conducted with individuals immediately after they exited a venue where campaign messages were present, were used to evaluate the outreach component of this campaign. A total of 108 intercept interviews were conducted with the target audience by trained interviewers. The overall message recall rate was 89.8%. Additionally, the majority of respondents indicated that they would use a snake condom in the future, discuss campaign messaging with someone that they knew, buy a snake condom, and go to an Aboriginal Health Service.
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