Viacom Launches AIDS-Testing PSAs

Viacom Inc. launched a new series of AIDS-education public-service announcements that deal entirely with testing and breaking down the testing stigma. It will include TV and radio spots and outdoor advertising, as well as programming.

The five new TV spots, part of its $200 million education campaign in association with the Kaiser Family Foundation, are targeted to at-risk populations including young people, minorities and "men who have sex with men." The "Knowing Is Beautifl" spots, a mix of 30's and 10's, feature couples in intimate situations, with the focus a bandage on the arm that signals they have been tested for AIDS.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in four people in the U.S. with HIV/AIDS do not know they are infected.

Since the ads are airing on broadcast and cable, they had to be subtle, said a source familiar with the creative, which means there are no obvious man/man couples.

"What we tried to do was make the sex unclear," he said. Four of the five feature herosexuals and the fifth is unclear, showing only arms and one set of washboard abs, though the source said he would be surprised if gay men didn't recognize it as targeted to them.

The five ads will run across all dayparts on Viacom broadcast and cable nets, excluding Nickelodeon.

Viacom will also air AIDS-themed programming, including a special on BET June 24, a re-airing of an AIDS-themed JAG episode on CBS, a social history of HIV on MTV, short films on AIDS on Showtime, and the re-airing of an episode of UPN's The Parkers.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.