How do you create a marketing campaign about the pleasure gap for women without mentioning orgasms? That was the unique challenge facing Durex and its advertising agency BLKJ Havas, when it launched its first major regional campaign addressing the issue.
'The Unequal Dinner' is a digital-only campaign which uses the restaurant dining experience to address the inequalities of the pleasure gap. Durex coordinated and filmed a stunt featuring unsuspecting men and their partners to spark a conversation among couples from key South-East Asian markets, including Singapore, Malaysia, Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam, and Thailand.
Durex ASEAN regional marketing director Pooja Porwal admits the challenges were significant.
"In ASEAN, we are not just dealing with differences culturally and language-wise, but also from the category itself. One of our key challenges is how we get the message across without actually saying it.
"We needed to find a culturally relevant idea that could translate and travel across all of these markets and create the preference and the conversations that we wanted in all of these markets," she continues.
"There's also the platforms to consider as this is a digital-only campaign. These all have their own restrictions and their own interpretations of what would be acceptable culturally. Our challenge was to find a way to get the message across, without having to spell it out, because we won't be allowed to."
And the obstacles did not end there. The ASEAN region has the lowest penetration of condom usage in the world, with estimates that just one in ten people use condoms. Historically, condom marketing has focused on educational messaging to overcome this apathy towards the products.
"There is now a huge understanding around the protection message of condoms, but that has really not moved the needle for us, or for the category in the region," says Porwal. "The number one barrier is that people feel condoms actually get in the way of the pleasure. So, our aim was to make Durex synonymous with pleasure, to move forward from this space of protection, which we already own, to the space of pleasure. To stop being seen as a barrier and become an enabler of pleasure."
The Reckitt-owned brand is a market leader in value share across most ASEAN markets – except for Indonesia - and has averaged 2% to 5% growth over recent years. As one of the smaller brands in the Reckitt portfolio in ASEAN, Durex's strategy is to grow the overall category and encourage more people to use condoms.
"The task for us is not just to get a little bit more market share, the idea is to grow the pie and get more people to use condoms. We realised the way to do it is not to put all our eggs into the didactic, education basket – while we will continue to work with partners and governments to do this. However, where we see the needle moving is changing the broader conversation to help chip away at the impression that condoms are a barrier to pleasure."
'The Unequal Dinner' campaign aims to achieve this by igniting a "pleasure revolution" by focusing on a highly taboo topic in the region while navigating the delicate conversation without being preachy or condescending.
"The pleasure gap is the gap between the pleasure that men get from sex versus women. This is something that is very prevalent but is not being discussed in the region. It's a fresh angle for Durex and we want to be the enabler for starting the conversation," says Porwal.
"At the end of the day, the target audience in this region is male. So, the idea is not to alienate men; we want to include them, not to pitch men against women, which we could easily do with this idea. We need to bring everyone together, and there needs to be a provocation, but the provocation needs to start discussions rather than pull people apart.
"There was a very fine line in terms of the language we used and a lot of iterations to get that language right. It was important for us to be inclusive."
The campaign's #ComeTogether tagline enabled the brand to reinforce the inclusivity messaging to hetero and non-hetero couples.
Guilherme Machado, executive creative director at BLKJ Havas, says, "When we talk pleasure gap, it is not just about straight couples. Of course, straight woman are the most affected by it, but gay couples, lesbians and trans couples, are also affected. The pleasure gap is very broad."
Porwal says the campaign aimed to create "something breakthrough and special" and help to shift the narrative around condoms, and so far, it has done just that. As of January, the campaign had attracted more than 200 million impressions and more than 60 million organic views.
"The results have been outstanding, and we've seen a big bump in market share after the launch of this campaign. We've had over 30% growth since last year and this trend is continuing this year. We really do see a huge breakthrough across the board our brand consideration and engagement are much higher than any of our previous campaigns and platform benchmarks. We have gained share in every single market where we launched this campaign, which is outstanding."
As further proof of the campaign's appeal, it was picked up by Korea to run in the market there.
"It's a true mark of success when other markets see the results and how impactful the campaign has been and then decide to take it on. It shows how translatable the idea is and it's really the cherry on top for us," says Porwal.