PSAs and awareness campaigns used to be notorious for being, well, just plain bad…or weird. (Have you ever seen this Star Wars child immunization campaign?) Luckily, with social media and the online realm’s explosion over the past decade or so, they’ve gotten more innovative and revolutionary. Such is the case with Plenty of Syph, an awareness campaign setup by the Alberta government that hopes to go viral so you won’t.
The Plenty of Syph campaign is a proactive approach to helping stop the spread of syphilis, which has grown nearly ten-fold in Alberta since the 90s. The campaign was launched on June 6th, and since has seen over 50,000 hits registered – no small feat for any site let alone an awareness campaign by a government body. The Alberta government has already reported a significant increase in STI testing in the three short weeks since the campaign’s inception, which is a remarkable ROI if true.
Once a user registers on Plenty of Syph – no name, email accounts, etc. are taken – they are given access to a satirical online dating site with profiles of “infected” individuals. The profiles appear much like they would on real dating sites. But what sets these apart are the plays on answers, such as a 22-year-old whose response to Ideal First Date turns into gibberish, then details he’s suffering from dementia in another reply. Under the profile, the stage of syphilis is described as well as the symptoms that result. Then there are other profiles on which “Membership Revoked” is pasted across the user’s account, as a result of receiving treatment. While there’s obvious deadpan humour trickled throughout the profiles, the medium that the Alberta government is using to disseminate information is brilliant.
While other dating sites, like Plenty of Fish – the site from which Plenty of Syph derived its moniker – are perturbed by the correlation some might draw, the campaign is otherwise quite groundbreaking for its use of social media ideology to accomplish its goals. The question remains as to whether or not Plenty of Syph will have a significant impact on lessening the spread of syphilis in Alberta, or even nationally, but the Alberta government gets serious points for creating a campaign that understands the demographic it’s targeting and speaking to it on a relatable level.