Condom ads will debut along with Stern show

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The makers of LifeStyles condoms are using CBS' new late-night Howard Stern TV show as the launch platform for a provocative new campaign.

CBS-owned stations in New York and Los Angeles have cleared a commercial for the Ansell Personal Products brand to break during the Aug. 22 debut of the "Howard Stern Radio Show," a rival to NBC's "Saturday Night Live." The ad will also appear on MTV and Comedy Central, and in October will begin airing on CBS-owned stations in Chicago and Boston; the marketer is in negotiations with other CBS network affiliates and local stations.


Expected to run through May 1999, the less than $1 million campaign carries the tagline "Condoms shaped for 2." It breaks away from standard messages about protection and responsibility in favor of showing couples on a motorcycle, in bed and dancing.

"Preaching doesn't work with college kids, so what we wanted to do was make it lighthearted and just bring some romance back into [condom advertising]," said Niles Wolfson, chief creative officer at ad agency SSD&W, Montville, N.J. "The skin we left for the print ad."

A racy supporting print effort--with a nearly nude couple--will appear in the October issue of Glamour and as a poster in 425,000 college newspapers in the fall. Copy in the ads details the six unique styles of the LifeStyles line.

The new campaign won't run on broadcast TV networks, which have been unwilling to run condom ads. Fox did run a Trojan condom ad in 1991 dealing with disease prevention, and ABC claims it was the first network to carry a public-service spot dealing with AIDS and condoms in 1986.


Although "there are commercials on TV that are more explicit" than the LifeStyles ads, "the networks won't even put our ads into the VCR to look at," said Carol Carozza, Ansell's director of marketing.

A one-woman condom ad crusader, Ms. Carozza made the first national TV buy for the category in 1984, getting a LifeStyles spot on MTV. She said these days, more cable networks are willing to run condom ads, as are a growing number of network affiliates. Two years ago, Ms. Carozza succeeded in getting a different LifeStyles spot aired on CBS, ABC and NBC stations in eight markets.

"I've only seen success in the last two years, coupled with CBS drastically changing its programming philosophy to be more cutting edge," said Ms. Carozza. "The first station was hard to topple but it got easier afterward."

Ansell has advertised on Mr. Stern's radio show since May. And LifeStyles is the official condom of Oakland Raiders' radio broadcasts on San Francisco's KTCT-AM.

The $259 million retail condom market showed growth of just 3.3% for the year ended June 21, according to Information Resources Inc. LifeStyles beat that rate, with sales rising 4.7% to $30.3 million.

Copyright August 1998, Crain Communications Inc.

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