In alignment with the World Health Organization’s goal to eliminate viral hepatitis C, Te Whatu Ora embarked on a public health campaign that wasn’t just another government announcement.
Sticking it to Hepatitis C
Known as the ‘silent killer’ Hepatitis C poses a grave threat to the liver, and many individuals may unknowingly carry the virus, leading to potential infections and deaths.
Unfortunately, due to the stigma associated with contaminated needles, this condition often goes unnoticed until it’s too late. Each year, over 200 New Zealanders succumb to Hepatitis C, while an estimated 50,000 people live with the infection, unaware of their condition and its implications.
The primary objective of this campaign was to increase testing by at least 30 percent among individuals at high risk, such as men aged 50+ who may have been exposed to unsterilised needles for drug use or tattoos in the past. However, traditional government messaging urging people to get tested wasn’t capturing their attention effectively.
To address this challenge, Te Whatu Ora embarked on a research-driven co-design approach involving key stakeholders from the Hep C community, including health professionals, individuals with lived experiences, and kaupapa Māori groups. The campaign’s strategy aimed to reduce the stigma surrounding Hep C by presenting a respectful and inclusive message, avoiding assumptions about the audience’s past, and encouraging them to come forward for testing.
One of the significant hurdles was the deeply ingrained and widespread stigma around Hep C. The campaign needed to reach a broad audience to normalise the topic and encourage open conversations. It required a bold and unexpected approach, different from traditional government messaging. The ‘Stick it to Hep C’ campaign was born, using provocative and cheeky content delivered by well-known New Zealand personalities to lend authenticity to the message.
The campaign broke the silence around Hep C, driving a national conversation and spurring action. It achieved an 89 percent reach of the target audience within three months, becoming the most talked-about campaign in New Zealand in August 2022. Most importantly, the testing rates soared by an impressive 150 percent, significantly surpassing the initial 30 percent target. Positive tests were 1000 percent higher than usual, indicating that the campaign effectively reached and motivated the most at-risk individuals to get tested.
The campaign’s success wasn’t without challenges. The bold and provocative creative approach also faced polarisation, leading to 19 complaints to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA). Despite the temporary removal of the ad from TV, the campaign’s appeal saw the ruling overturned due to its undeniable effectiveness in raising awareness and encouraging testing.
This campaign’s results have far-reaching implications, with an approximate saving of $2.5 million in taxpayers’ dollars, yielding an impressive ROI of $1 spent, $6.80 saved. The success was further validated by independent research conducted by Kantar, affirming the campaign’s ability to connect with the audience, increase understanding, and drive action.
The bold and provocative approach proved to be effective, making this campaign a true winner in its impact and effectiveness.
Excellence in Public Sector/Government Marketing Strategy
Te Whatu Ora
Hepatitis C National Awareness Campaign
VMLY&R, Wawata Creative
“Good links to business strategy to overcome a clearly articulated challenge. Clear stakeholder engagement mapped from the beginning for optimal success. A sensitive subject that was managed carefully across all aspects of the marketing strategy.“
Fire and Emergency NZ, Te Ara Ahunga Ora Retirement Commission, Tertiary Education Commission
This article was originally published in the September/October 2023 issue of NZ Marketing. Click here to subscribe.