The monkeypox outbreak is a subject that is already relevant to gay men across the United States and can stir emotions of fear and dread. Our team developed an approach for a behavior change campaign for the state of North Carolina that would do more than drudge up feelings of fear. It was engineered to connect with the Black gay community, who are particularly at risk, and celebrate their beauty in order to motivate them to get vaccinated.
Johnny Wilson is an employee at the Mecklenburg Health Department and works every day to close the racial gap in vaccination numbers in Charlotte. As reported in The Washington Post, Johnny Wilson motivates men to get vaccinated by appealing to their vanity, saying things like, “Your skin is too beautiful to be having bumps on it.” It is clear that the visual lesions that result from monkeypox are influential in motivating people to get vaccinated. While the sores can be fearful, the messaging approach True North would lean toward would remain positive, much like Johnny’s approach.
With vanity being an underlying motivation for getting the vaccine, the visual theme allows the skin to tell the story itself. Our local artists can use bodies as their canvases, creating a campaign that is eye-catching, artistic, and shareable and that celebrates the beauty of gay Black men, who are worthy of being spared from monkeypox.
While the campaign leans on positivity, it also can depict the troubling visible nature of monkeypox. By using paint, artists can depict the sores and make a big impact without using patient photos that will repel many viewers.
Any strong campaign concept can be adapted for different mediums. From large-scale out-of-home placements to postage stamp-sized banner ads, the Too Beautiful campaign uses its visual strength to bring attention to monkeypox, no matter the ad format. The image below represents a full screen interstitial ad on Grindr, a popular dating app for gay men. When the user is scrolling through potential
men to be intimate with, the message “You’re too beautiful for monkeypox” would affirm their self-worth while also giving them pause before they interact in behavior that is high-risk for monkeypox.