Friendly advice for some of my more sensitive readers – the following contains adult themes and language.
Last summer, we were sitting on the roof of Bluefrog towers brainstorming ideas for a new digital product for a pitch for the International HIV/AIDS Alliance.
For those who haven't heard of them, The Alliance is a group of non-profit organisations from around the world that have one goal – to bring people together to end AIDS.
As anyone who has ever attended a Bluefrog brainstorm will know, the sessions can be a little irreverent. The rule that no idea is a bad idea is pushed to the extreme and we actively encourage stupid, disconnected and completely off-topic conversation.
As part of this process, we started digging deep into the psyche of those nice left-wing Guardian and Independent readers and looked at the triggers that would get them to do something more than give a glance to an ad before turning the page or scrolling down the screen.
We looked at what needs they might have that an International HIV/AIDS charity could answer. And, as ever, we didn't focus on what the charity could ask them to do. Instead we asked what the charity could do for them?
"Spicing things up things in bedroom." was the first suggestion.
"A sponsored orgasm-a-thon." was the response.
Finally, came the home run. "Let's get them to give a fuck."
With much laughter, the conversation exploded into comparisons of virtual goats, drilling wells, gushing water and planting seeds. Anyone who has ever been a thirteen year old, will be able to have a pretty good guess how things continued for the next half an hour.
It was a frantic thirty minutes. But at the end, we thought that we might have the basis of an idea.
We would create an event where we would ask people to have sex for charity. Not just any old sex. Great sex. Mind-blowing sex. Earth-shattering sex. But most importantly, safe sex.
The working (and final) title was Come Together.
Rather than just put out another welcome pack, we decided to create a very special welcome box. Inside would be everything you need to have a great night – a tickler, a blindfold, a condom, some lube and most importantly a series of sex games that would be fun and informative, showing you how to use a condom properly.
In return for an online donation, the donor would get the box as a thank you. We'd create something that people would want, we'd spread the safe sex message and we'd raise money for The Alliance's work. The plan was to create one of those win/win situations that people sometimes talk about on the TV.
And that was the concept that a rather amazing group of people at The Alliance chose to develop.
The next question was how should we promote it?
We didn't have much cash for the project. Budgets were tight. So we decided to produce a TV ad. An ad that would only be shown for one night only. An ad that would hopefully generate conversation and interest that would go beyond the reach of a late night TV slot.
So we set out to push the boundaries of what the people at Clearcast would let us get away with.
With the amazing Greg Masuak as director, working alongside the fabulous team at Toast, we put out the casting call for a range of people to represent every sector of society – all races, young and old, male, female and transgender. Everyone was welcome. We set up the shoot in the Dragon's Den studio and developed the first version of the ad.
Then the debate with Clearcast started. Emails started coming in with requests like, "Can you delete the gent in glasses at 40 seconds. He's obviously being penetrated."
At the end of the process we got an ad with clearance for broadcast after 11pm. And following a few conversations with various TV channels, we actually managed to get four to run it. It launches on Channel 4, where you can see it on Friday night at 11.45.
With a little help from the people at UNITY, we've seen a buzz start to grow around the launch. Perhaps the most pleasing was an article featuring the ad on the front of the Independent website that within a few hours had over one thousand shares and the first boxes were being ordered for delivery for Valentines Day.
So will it work?
We think so. We hope so. But we don't know.
That's one of the problems with innovation. When you are doing something without any real precedent you can never be 100% sure.
The success of the campaign depends on people like you. If you share or – more importantly – if you visit wecometogether.org to donate, you'll get a Come Together box for someone special in your life and hopefully have a very pleasant St. Valentine's Day as a result.
Fingers crossed. x