They look like 24-hour convenience stores, quick-stop grocery retailers and walk-in clinics. And despite having funny names like, “Painful Itch N’ Go,” “The Chlamydia Management Group” and the “Estacion de Gonnorrea,” these fictitious store fronts have a serious message: sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are real and they are open for business in Omaha.
Serve Marketing, the country’s only all-volunteer advertising agency, developed the unconventional marketing campaign that coincides with National STD Awareness Month– launching a series of bogus storefronts in targeted areas of Omaha. The storefronts then give teens and young adults information about the STD crisis in Omaha and the importance of “getting checked for STD’s.” To create an even bigger buzz around the stores, Serve launched a multi-media teaser campaign, including TV, (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zn4Hkz2Ux6g and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i7yaEXnCpXg) outdoor, radio, social and digital banners, touting the outrageous businesses–an effort that has fueled widespread attention on social media in Omaha.
The effort, which is led by the Women’s Fund of Omaha, whose new Adolescent Health Project is working to curb STDs in Omaha, is in response to Omaha’s shockingly high STD rate. For over a decade, Omaha has been reported to have some of the highest STD rates in the nation. A report released by The Douglas County Health Department last month showed infections continue to rise and are now at historic levels. Cases of gonorrhea and syphilis are up by 15 and 23 percent, respectively. And Chlamydia reached an all-time high in 2014 with 3,390 reported cases. These numbers are highest among those ages 15 to 24.
“This has been a closeted issue in Omaha for decades,” explains Serve Volunteer Creative Director, Gary Mueller. “If we want to ultimately lower the STD rate and change people’s behaviors, we need to be bolder and more aggressive about getting people to talk about the issue. We think this will get people talking.”
The surprising campaign is meant to stir discussion about STDs among parents, teens, and young adults. It’s the second in a multi-year marketing campaign on STD prevention that directs people to the website GetCheckedOmaha.com and hotline 1-844-690-CHKD (2453) to find resources and more information on STDs, safe sex practices, and locations of testing sites.