Last year, the Rhode Island Department of Health asked us to create a campaign that would encourage people to get tested for HIV. Experience has taught us that delivering important messages to niche audiences can be challenging, so we developed several concepts that ranged from the unequivocally safe to the undeniably raunchy. Fingers crossed, we presented all of them to the client.

Lightning strikes twice. In a good way.

Ultimately, they chose to run two.

Their first choice became the more public face of the campaign. Surprisingly, it fell well away from the safe end of the range. Wait, what? Yes, the more public face of the campaign was NOT one of our safest concepts. That makes us creative types happy.

Their second choice came to life in our audience’s dance clubs, bars, and other hangouts. And this concept was waaay at the… let’s call it the more “provocative” end of the range. That makes us creative types extremely happy.

It was a team effort. And I’m not just saying that.

Now, we creatives can be mighty quick to congratulate ourselves when our “edgier” work actually sees the light of day. But it’s important to remember that we didn’t do it alone.

Our account team did an amazing job collecting, analyzing, and interpreting input from  focus groups, individual interviews, and studious observations. In the process, they painted a poignant and human picture of our audience, so we knew exactly who we were trying to reach.

Our media team found out where to reach them — online, outdoors, in print, on air.

Our production team made great things happen on tight deadlines and tighter budgets.

Most importantly, our client saw the value in an approach that was admittedly more daring than they expected. They saw the truth in the way it spoke to the people they needed to reach. And, they saw the results they had hoped for.

High fives all around.

In my nearly 20 years of advertising, this project was one of a handful of “perfect storms” of cooperation and communication. And it proved yet again that a smart and considered strategy will lead to a strong and compelling creative product.

I was in a meeting recently during which two interns saw the campaign for the first time. “Whoa” and “wow” were their reactions. Everyone involved in this project should feel pretty good about that. Why? Because we all worked hard, dug deep, pushed boundaries, and made a positive difference by creating meaningful work that captured attention and spurred the audience into action. Plus, the creative wins awards and there’s certainly nothing wrong with that.

See the possibly-NSFW work here.