David Kirby dying of AIDS in 1992, an image that the United Colors of Benetton used to increase awareness about the disease and educate the public. This paper will aim to create a message for this image, analyze the targeted audience and the advertisement strategy that would be used to promote the message. The final goal would be to elaborate an integrated marketing communications, aiming to promote the ideas of the photograph with the targeted audiences.
David Kirby was an AIDS activist who contracted AIDS while in California. He returned to Ohio, to spend the last weeks of his life with his family. He profiled as an activist while in Ohio, particularly since his family and himself became increasingly appalled by the way AIDS patient were being treated, because of lack of education, in hospitals and medical facilities across the state.
In order to define the campaign objectives, it is important to note the moment when this occurs: it is early 1990s, the disease had been active in the U.S. For at least ten years, but it was perceived by the population as a targeted, marginal disease, one that would not affect the bulk of the population, but particularly the gay community. For the mainstream, religious population, the gay community was still perceived as a community being punished because of its sexual orientation.
The interest for the disease and for addressing it in a proper manner, including from a social point-of-view, was very limited. The fact that the disease was also transmissible through other means, including blood transfusion, was still little known among the population. It was simply a gay disease and, as a consequence, it was not something that people needed to know about.
With this in mind, the campaign objectives are very clear: to raise awareness and to educate the population about the disease. The message for the campaign should thus be "AIDS Kills!" There are several components to this message, in line with the proposed objectives. First of all, it needs to show that these are the effects of the disease. The picture of David Kirby is impressive, in part, because of his emaciated state. It will likely reverberate with people, who will become aware that these are the terrible effects of the disease.
The underlying message, also in-line with the objectives, is that death affects all. There are several ways in which this message is supported. One is that the viewers of the campaign could always ask the question "what if it happens to me?" On a general note, this is something that psychologically could happen: a strong image that triggers the question "what if?" The second way is the presence of the family. It shows that AIDS affects not only the person who dies, but also those close around him.
Moving from this idea, a further objective is to take the AIDS sufferers out of the isolation into which the communities had pushed them because of the disease (Kubacka, 2012). Kirby and his family had been appalled by the way the medical staff had treated individuals sick with AIDS, including by using special, anti-infectious suits when dealing with the patients. The role of the campaign is also to take the people sick with AIDS out of their isolation and the best way to do that is to show them to the world. The best way to show this is to present the love with which a family surrounds a family member dying of AIDS.
As Macleod (2007) pointed out, this is a campaign that aims at "consciousness-raising ." All its underlying features need to point in that direction and appeal to something deeper than the rational (which, in this particular case, is a prejudiced interpretation of AIDS as a disease of the gay community). The image of the father is particularly strong to support this. Several article and analysis have pointed out that there is a "Pieta moment" in the photo.
There are two distinct components of the "Pieta moment." First, the dying person looks like Christ, because he is emaciated, tormented by the agony and has a face that resembles that of Christ. Moreover, however, his father, now taking over the role that the Virgin Mary plays in the Pieta, grieves over his dying son.
The moment is very strong and it is closely associated to the issue of consciousness that was previously mentioned. Moving the matter beyond disease and prejudice, it relates to the individual on a very personal level: filial love, the fact that the most terrible grief is that of a parent losing his or her son or daughter. The theme is also religious and the underlying assumption is that this could potentially help communicate the message better to strongly Catholic communities.
For many countries, such as Paraguay, it was the first time that they became acquainted with the disease. The fact that the message had an underlying Catholic basis (the idea of the Pieta as salvation and eternal love) could make it easier to be embraced. The reaction was split, and many Catholic communities were, in fact, horrified by the implications and the innuendos of the photo.
Model for the advertisement strategy
Umeno (2010) proposes a funnel-like approach for an advertisement strategy that includes the following stages: awareness, interest, desire and action. The respective strategy is customized for a product or a service, but it can be related to a campaign such as this one as well. In the awareness stage, the recipient notices and becomes more accustomed to a certain reality that he has never met before or about which he had limited knowledge.
In this case, it is obviously the fact that AIDS exists in a different reality than everybody believes. It is a disease that hurts families and communities, not only marginalized communities. It is a disease that causes isolation and harms to a larger degree than strictly applied to the individual. It goes beyond a community that is morally marginalized.
Beyond awareness, the second phase is interest. The campaign, with the photo, is only in the awareness phase, it needs to further create interest. This means providing more and more information about the disease. As previously discussed, one of the most important people is not only that people do not care about the disease, because they believe it does not affect them, but that they do not know anything about the disease. Information about how the disease is transmitted, what are the signals that someone has AIDS, what are the implications etc. needs to be communicated.
There are several ways to do this, but it needs to include a short list with bulleted messages, posted besides the photo, in anything from brochures to posters. The messages should include short sentences that the public can easily understand and embrace, including "AIDS is transmissible through unprotected sex, blood transfusions and the use of hypodermic needles." It is likely that the viewer of the image will be immediately interested to read a little bit about it as well, so these bullet points on the side can be considered very timely.
The third level in the model is desire. This is a very important phase in the development of the model, because it means the targeted audience (and, again, the targeted audience here includes the population at large, no matter the age, level of income or education) moves from a simple recipient of the information towards actual action. If in the model applied to products or services, the desire means the individual is now thinking about purchasing the product, in this case, it means that the individual is thinking about doing something about this situation. It virtually paves the way for the fourth and final level, action.
The action phase is usually associated to a "where to buy" question, but in this case it means moving the individual towards taking individual action towards doing something against the disease or against its social impact. The action phase would mean that concrete ways in which individuals can help are provided. The advertising strategy would need to involve, at this point, NGOs and other entities that would better understand how private individuals can help. All these aspects will be presented further below, in the integrated marketing communications plan.
Integrated marketing communications plan
The integrated marketing plan that will be proposed here is based on four levels suggested by Schultz and Schultz (1998). These levels include:
Level 1: Tactical Coordination and Marketing Communications
At this stage, the focus in on ensuring the tactical coordination among the different entities and levels involved in the process, including advertising and public relations. In the case of this photo, the best way to do this would be to create a Task Force that will include the photographer, representatives from the marketing and PR departments but also representatives from NGOs that relate to the topic at hands (raising awareness about AIDS). The importance of these entities will be further described below when referring to the…