Alex Blaze

Sexy French PSA controversy

Filed By Alex Blaze | January 04, 2008 8:17 AM | comments

Filed in: Living, Media, Politics
Tags: France, French advertising, HIV/AIDS, prevention

AIDS ad.jpgThe National Health Education and Prevention Institute (Inpes), the advertising arm of the French Ministry of Health, Youth, and Sports, has put out the ad on the left. I got it on the back of the most recent Tetu, France's biggest gaystream mag.

It depicts two naked men kissing with a large virus in the background. The text reads:

Every day in France, 4 gay men discover they're HIV-positive.


Considering that it's community-targeted in a way that's sexy and relevant surprised me that it would be funded on the national government's dime ten-centime piece. But with every good gesture there's a backlash - and this ad's backlash came in the form of a removal effort by the Bureau for Truth in Advertising (BVP).

More on the controversy and the sexy TV version of the ad, after the jump.

The ad ran throughout the month of December in gay press and publicly in the Marais, Paris's gayborhood. It was accompanied by this TV spot:

The BVP's statement, which has no problem with the TV ad, says that the print version "very crudely represents two nude male characters engaged in a sexual act" and has put into place an "after-diffusion intervention procedure."

The Inpes decided to do the entire campaign's run anyway, but ACT-UP Paris called the victory "temporary" in which "nothing was gained."

But more shocking than the BVP's lack of concern for HIV infection rates (the statement was released along-side another one about a gay/lesbian Dolce & Gabbana ad and makes no mention of the fact that the goals of the two are different) is this statement (emphasis theirs):

It is certainly difficult to decide on subject where two deontological principles of equal legitimacy find themselves in contradiction: on one side, the principle of protecting children, following the previously-mentioned logic from parents who wrote us and, on the other, the principle of nondiscrimination towards minorities.

Because this ad is going to damage children's fragile psyches just as much as HIV has hurt gay men.


(And, frankly, if you saw some of the other billboards that go up around here, this isn't uniquely "hyper-sexual." I had to email Bil and ask him if it was OK to post it on this American blog because I've become so desensitized to naked and sexy advertising.)

ACT-UP Paris is calling the BVP on this, saying that the ad doesn't present "even one ounce of a private part" (evidently the French measure cock-shots in the English system). From them:

ACT-UP Paris denounces homophobia in media watchdog groups. The criminal irresponsibility of these bodies proves more than a displaced prudishness; it shows a rare incompetence by putting commercial ads and HIV prevention messages on the same footing. Twenty-five years after the start of the epidemic in France, we are no longer satisfied with heteronormative prevention messages and impressive insipidness.

All I know is that the ad got the message across to me that even in the sexiest of sex, the threat of the virus is still present. I also appreciate the fact that both the TV and print versions were ethnically inclusive.

And, well, I know it caught my attention. When I was on the phone with him the other night, R. asked me a couple of times if I was "still looking at that ad." To which I responded that I was just getting educated.


You can't blame a boy for trying to learn something.

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In my opinion, that's a good ad campaign. The controversy sounds similar to all the hoopla over the ad campaign launched by the LA Gay and Lesbian Center last year, which said, "HIV is a gay disease." Many people found the ad offensive, arguing that it entrenches that old stereotype. But I gotta say, in an era where HIV has become normalized within our community, at least it's gotten people talking about it.

While the ad would never fly here in America (oooh! Gays have SEX! *gasp!*) I don't find it offensive or even over the top. I don't think it even shows them having sex so much as just laying on top of each other. A precursor to sex, if you will. :)

I think the video is hotter. LOL

... the ad doesn't present "even one ounce of a private part" ...

Not sure if I agree with ACT-UP Paris, since I believe I can see the golden arches of the top guy's rear end --- but maybe the French don't consider a rear end to be a private part?

In any event, the ad is hot ... and anything that reaches the gay community effectively is likely to draw fire from the right, so fuck'em!

(Can't check out the video --- I'm stuck on dial-up right now ...)

Campaign is GREAT! No problem with it. It shows that Gay and Straight people can get HIV. All they want people to do was spread awareness. People can have sex...they just need to be safe about it. I think that this ad campaign will hold people's attention because of the people in intimate situations in the ad.

just another reader | February 20, 2009 2:30 AM

Very informative. Thanks, Alex!

i don't think there's any doubt that this can be an effective campaign.

to say that the ad doesn't catch your eye would be an outright lie. once caught, you've got to read the text. would it work here? of course it would!

vive la france!