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Behind the Work

Rewriting the Kama Sutra

Rewriting the Kama Sutra

Patricia Murphy

Patricia Murphy

October 6, 2020

Havas London’s latest campaign for Durex tackles censorship surrounding anal sex says Elliot Harris, RB Global Executive Creative Director and Creative Partner at the agency.

“For people to see themselves and the type of sexual occasions they experience be represented in Durex’s cam­paigns and programs is vital"

People across the globe have anal sex 56 billion times a year, according to research by Durex. Yet, archaic legislation in the UK prevents the brand from even mentioning the words “anal sex” directly in its advertising. Such was the challenge faced by the creative team at Havas Londonwho were tasked to relaunch the sexual wellness brand’s lubricant range Perfect Gliss, but were completely restricted in communicating the products’ role in anal sex 

The project’s goal was to fight the stigma surrounding anal sex and normalize the conversation around the practice that almost half of Gen-Zs (46%), of all sexual orientations, consider to be a normal part of their sex lives. Conceptually, the campaign was fueled by the disbelief that despite the large role anal sex plays in healthy love lives, sex is still being censored. 

Elliot HarrisRB Global Executive Creative Director and Creative Partner at Havas London, said: “I always love a problem like this in a brief and a clear enemy to go after. In the case of this anal sex project for Durex, we were not even allowed to use the word we wanted to speak up aboutOne of the things the creative team discovered early on was the language of ‘cAN’t tALk’. The message came from a simple idea to directly take on the censorship that prevented us from being able to talk about anal sex. For so long, it has been deemed kinky or for a homosexual audience exclusively and we know from Durex’s data, that simply isn’t true.” 

In September, billboards featuring an embracing couple beside a bottle of Perfect Gliss were rolled out across the UK, captioned with, “It’s 2020 and we still can’t talk about normal sex here.”  

Harris said: “I think the campaign has landed well because it speaks to a growing awareness around our own censorship that we place on ourselves and each other, all of which is fueled by censorship in the media and the social platforms we all use. The real lives and attitudes of people today is absolutely what this brand wants to hold a mirror up to and reflect back. For people to see themselves and the type of sexual occasions they experience be represented in Durex’s campaigns and programs is vital. The representation in this work has felt culturally credible and people respond to that. That gives this brand the chance to be in a conversation which feels more peer-like and less parental. That’s very important for a sex brand,” he added. 

“It’s not enough to broadcast at people. There needs to be other layers of information and enter­tainment
involved"

A core goal of this campaign was to educate its audience about anal sex and Harris believes the development of an aligned information platform on Durex’s website was key to its success.  

It’s one thing to agitate the conversation but you very quickly need to follow that up with action,” he said.

“It’s not enough to broadcast at people. There needs to be other layers of information and entertainment involved. Knowledge plays an important role in busting myths and taboos around certain topics in sex, especially for young people. Durex has a long history of trust and credibility. The brand publishes one of the world’s largest sexual surveys and this data is then supplied to the U.N. It informs all our insights and briefs. Education is a vital role the brand continues to play in the world of sexual health. 

The taboo-busting campaign also recruited the guidance of French sexpert Maïa Mazaurette, who helped Durex add a “Forgotten Chapter” to the Kama Sutra, focusing on anal. The artwork was exhibited on the Rue de Turenne in Le Marais in Paris in August.  

“It’s so important that our campaigns have this kind of depth. To allow the brand to continue to tell its story through more interesting activations that sit alongside the main advertising. We know so many of these types of ideas are often in that first presentation to clients but can then fall away at the end. I’m a huge fan of this part of the project, which is thanks to our collaboration with One Green Bean. 

The project required partnership between Havas London, One Green Bean PR, and Havas Paris, and the result is a reflection on the strength of the Group’s village model. 

Harris said: “We’re extremely lucky to be part of an amazing creative group and as the Global Creative Lead on all the RB brandsI want to push harder for more collaboration within the Havas Villages. It works really well with so many of the disciplines within the businesses. I’d love Durex in particular, to be able to unlock more of the entertainment and music properties within VivendiI think Durex is hugely aligned to our own ambitions at Havas to make a meaningful difference in the world.”

“For people to see themselves and the type of sexual occasions they experience be represented in Durex’s cam­paigns and programs is vital"

People across the globe have anal sex 56 billion times a year, according to research by Durex. Yet, archaic legislation in the UK prevents the brand from even mentioning the words “anal sex” directly in its advertising. Such was the challenge faced by the creative team at Havas Londonwho were tasked to relaunch the sexual wellness brand’s lubricant range Perfect Gliss, but were completely restricted in communicating the products’ role in anal sex 

The project’s goal was to fight the stigma surrounding anal sex and normalize the conversation around the practice that almost half of Gen-Zs (46%), of all sexual orientations, consider to be a normal part of their sex lives. Conceptually, the campaign was fueled by the disbelief that despite the large role anal sex plays in healthy love lives, sex is still being censored. 

Elliot HarrisRB Global Executive Creative Director and Creative Partner at Havas London, said: “I always love a problem like this in a brief and a clear enemy to go after. In the case of this anal sex project for Durex, we were not even allowed to use the word we wanted to speak up aboutOne of the things the creative team discovered early on was the language of ‘cAN’t tALk’. The message came from a simple idea to directly take on the censorship that prevented us from being able to talk about anal sex. For so long, it has been deemed kinky or for a homosexual audience exclusively and we know from Durex’s data, that simply isn’t true.” 

In September, billboards featuring an embracing couple beside a bottle of Perfect Gliss were rolled out across the UK, captioned with, “It’s 2020 and we still can’t talk about normal sex here.”  

Harris said: “I think the campaign has landed well because it speaks to a growing awareness around our own censorship that we place on ourselves and each other, all of which is fueled by censorship in the media and the social platforms we all use. The real lives and attitudes of people today is absolutely what this brand wants to hold a mirror up to and reflect back. For people to see themselves and the type of sexual occasions they experience be represented in Durex’s campaigns and programs is vital. The representation in this work has felt culturally credible and people respond to that. That gives this brand the chance to be in a conversation which feels more peer-like and less parental. That’s very important for a sex brand,” he added. 

“It’s not enough to broadcast at people. There needs to be other layers of information and enter­tainment
involved"

A core goal of this campaign was to educate its audience about anal sex and Harris believes the development of an aligned information platform on Durex’s website was key to its success.  

It’s one thing to agitate the conversation but you very quickly need to follow that up with action,” he said.

“It’s not enough to broadcast at people. There needs to be other layers of information and entertainment involved. Knowledge plays an important role in busting myths and taboos around certain topics in sex, especially for young people. Durex has a long history of trust and credibility. The brand publishes one of the world’s largest sexual surveys and this data is then supplied to the U.N. It informs all our insights and briefs. Education is a vital role the brand continues to play in the world of sexual health. 

The taboo-busting campaign also recruited the guidance of French sexpert Maïa Mazaurette, who helped Durex add a “Forgotten Chapter” to the Kama Sutra, focusing on anal. The artwork was exhibited on the Rue de Turenne in Le Marais in Paris in August.  

“It’s so important that our campaigns have this kind of depth. To allow the brand to continue to tell its story through more interesting activations that sit alongside the main advertising. We know so many of these types of ideas are often in that first presentation to clients but can then fall away at the end. I’m a huge fan of this part of the project, which is thanks to our collaboration with One Green Bean. 

The project required partnership between Havas London, One Green Bean PR, and Havas Paris, and the result is a reflection on the strength of the Group’s village model. 

Harris said: “We’re extremely lucky to be part of an amazing creative group and as the Global Creative Lead on all the RB brandsI want to push harder for more collaboration within the Havas Villages. It works really well with so many of the disciplines within the businesses. I’d love Durex in particular, to be able to unlock more of the entertainment and music properties within VivendiI think Durex is hugely aligned to our own ambitions at Havas to make a meaningful difference in the world.”

Patricia Murphy joined Havas Group in October 2019 as a Senior Editor and Writer. She has a background in digital journalism and content creation.

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