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Sex in the commercial break: how bouncing speech bubbles informed the nation
  1. Susan Quilliam
  1. Freelance Writer, Broadcaster and Agony Aunt, Cambridge, UK
  1. Correspondence to Ms Susan Quilliam; susan{at}

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Here's your starter for ten. Name me the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI) – the one that it just so happens is the subject of three other articles in this issue of the Journal (see pages 4, 10 and 17). Correct. Chlamydia.

But while you and I know that answer, the general public – and especially that youthful segment of the general public that is most affected by the problem – often haven't had the chance to be so informed. Which is why so many under-25s are at risk of chlamydia, and why so many of us sexual health professionals spend vast amounts of time hitting our heads against this particular brick wall.

Enter the Department of Health (DH) and the Central Office of Information (COI), which in the summer of 2009 decided to launch a nationwide advertising campaign to highlight sexual issues in general and chlamydia issues in particular. Enter too your intrepid reporter who, following her previous coverage of The Sex Education Show,1 decided to take a similar behind-the-scenes peek into the inner workings of yet another phenomenon, this time that of behavioural change.

You'll have seen the advertising campaign, of course – it's the one with the animated bubbles and the tagline ‘Worth Talking About’. With luck, you'll also have seen that chlamydia testing uptake is on the rise and chlamydia incidence is on the decline – and if you are seeing that, then credit is due. But given that long-term statistics aren't yet available, what fascinates me currently is not whether the campaign works but why and how it was born. Why did it start? How was the core concept arrived at? How were the messages developed? How was it produced? And why, why, why those animated bubbles?

The start

The original initiative came 2 years …

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