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The federal government's latest anti-AIDS campaign contains plenty of references to HIV infection, unprotected sex and abstinence, but none to the gay population, the group with the highest incidence of AIDS in the U.S.

If that sounds a little like a McDonald's commercial without golden arches, that's exactly what the Centers for Disease Control and its agency, Ogilvy & Mather, Atlanta, wanted.

"Not showing gay men doesn't mean we're not targeting them," said Melissa Shepherd, the Atlanta-based CDC's top marketing and media official. "If you are targeting African Americans in a campaign, you don't just show African American faces. We were looking for a universal message that worked well with population segments-African Americans, Hispanics, Caucasians, low socioeconomics and gay men."

Likewise, Ian Latham, O&M senior VP-executive creative director, challenged the notion that the latest campaign misses its most combustible target audience. He also praised the ad featuring a computer-animated condom leaping into a bed already inhabited by a love-making couple of undetermined sex. "It would be nice if latex condoms were automatic," the voice-over says. "But since they're not, using them should be."

"Having a condom featured in the ad and making a statement about the use of condoms communicates to people


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who've had sex," said Mr. Latham, who's been responsible for all six previous AIDS campaigns. "Would I materially improve that communication if I'd placed a gay couple in the commercial? No, I want the condom to be the hero."

The latest CDC campaign, consisting of 13 TV and radio public service announcements, targets sexually active men and women 18 to 25, considered a high-risk group for HIV infection and other sexually transmitted diseases.

By not aiming its message at gay men, the ads reflect the changing nature of the U.S. AIDS epidemic.

Although more than half of AIDS cases reported to the CDC are among gay men, the lengthy period between infection with the HIV virus and development of the disease means that those cases reflect the patterns of infection most common five to 10 years ago.

The steady and dramatic increase in AIDS cases resulting from heterosexual contact demonstrates the spread of the disease into new risk groups that are targeted by the condom ads.

The CDC's most recent studies show that AIDS cases among gay men declined 1.1% between 1991 and 1992, while cases resulting from heterosexual contacts increased 17.1%.

Amid much talk about the latest PSA that stars a wrapped condom, Mr. Latham noted he produced a similar spot in 1987.

"We had done a condom ad then, but it never ran; the government developed it, but the media wouldn't run it," he said. "I think now people sensed the time is right."

Indeed, all four networks told Health & Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala they would air the AIDS spots, some of them with time restrictions or copy changes.

If the networks are changing their tunes, that is sweet music to condom marketers that have been shut out by the Big 3 TV networks.

"The campaign certainly goes a lot further than anything we've seen before, and I think it opens up a whole new world of opportunities for condom marketing," said Kim Leffler, marketing manager at Safetex. The condom marketer, partially emboldened by the new government campaign, is working on its first TV spot, via Earle Palmer Brown, Richmond, Va.

And Ansell-Americas, marketer of LifeStyle condoms, plans to ask the networks to reconsider its $10 million campaign that was earlier rejected.M

Emily DeNitto and Joe Mandese contributed to this story.


20An obviously heterosexual couple embraces in a spot from the government's latest campaign to fight AIDS.

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