Friday, October 2, 2015

Will a billboard associating Tinder with STDs motivate people to go for a free test?

As we discussed in class, online dating has gone mainstream.  A 2013 poll conducted by the Pew Research Center found that 59% of Americans now believe the internet is a perfectly respectable place to seek out partners. (Firger, 2015)

Unfortunately, at the same time, some recent data from the health departments of Rhode Island and Houston have shown an increase in STDs for 2014 vs. 2013, after declines tracking back to 2009.  The numbers are alarming.  In Rhode Island syphilis increased by 79%, HIV by 33% and gonorrhea by 30%.  Similar data has been released in Wales, and the Philippines, suggesting this is a global trend. (Sass, 2015)

Clearly some kind of awareness building campaign for safe sex is overdue.

This week the AIDS Healthcare Foundation decided to take matters into their own hands and released this billboard on more than 20 locations and 100 bus benches in Los Angeles.

Tinder immediately sent a cease and desist letter to the foundation.

The foundation responded by declining to remove the references to Tinder saying: "AHF has not made any false or disparaging statements against Tinder and therefore has no reason to cease making any such statements."  (Ziv, 2015)

I guess we'll have to see what happens next. 

In the meantime however, what do you think?  What are they trying to accomplish?  And, will this be an effective campaign?   

Keeping in mind the audience for the effort and what we have learned about persuasion, can you think of a more effective way to motivate people to get their free checkups?

Firger, J. (2015, May 30)  Should Dating Apps Help Promote Safe Sex?  Retrieved October 1, 2015, from

Sass, E. (2015, September 29)  Tinder Wants STD Billboard Removed.  Retrieved October 1, 2015, from

Ziv, S. (2015, September 30)  Tinder Clashes With AIDS Healthcare Foundation Over STD Billboard.  Retrieved October 1, 2015, from


  1. STD's and other sexually related diseases/infections are usually a very sensitive subject to many in the audience for the effort. I think the best way to persuade an audience to get tested is to create an ad campaign that shows/explains that everyone is doing it. People will only do something, especially millennials if they see that "everyone" else is also doing it. Explain it is a common practice and use someone who can relate or can engage the audience (maybe a celebrity) as the spokesperson in the commercials. The spokesperson can explain that it only takes one exposure to someone who has a disease and that the person would never know. Explaining that STDs are very common and that the numbers are growing could encourage the audience to get tested more frequently. It would also be beneficial to explain during the campaign that testing is private and that some sort of reward (like a $5 dollar gift card to Amazon) will be given to those who come out to actually get tested. I believe that this will be the way to engage the audience and to spread the important message about getting tested.

  2. I think it’s a good idea from STD institute to catch up people with this strategy using Tinder and apps like, this because when you take a look at Tinder targets they are usually people looking for short-term relations; tending to have STD´s and hiding them because of a sexual need, but they don’t care about their partners health.

    So the campaign has a great focus and it will be an effective one. Because it goes straight to the beginning of a STD that is the dating moment indeed and as the research shows right now it is more common doing it in tinder rather than doing it offline.

  3. Personally, I don't like this billboard. This is an unfair association between Tinder and STD. This billboard makes me feel that people who are on Tinder are more likely to have STD. I am not on Tinder, but I have many friends who are active on Tinder, and this association makes me uncomfortable.

    I think it might be more effective to connect people with their emotions. Inform people that taking test is good for both themselves and their loved ones. I can't help thinking about the campaign that is used to bring people's awareness to breast cancer. Breast cancer was a private topic once, but now people are more aware of it and more willing to bring this topic to the public. Many husbands even go to breast cancer marathon for their loved ones.

  4. I support the AIDS Healthcare Foundation 100 percent with their campaign for safe sex because the data from the health department is absolutely alarming. HIV is up by 33%??!!! How can this be with all of the information out there? I was shocked by the high numbers.

    I’m not sure which age group this if affecting, but clearly awareness is needed for this serious issue. I agree with AIDS Healthcare Foundation’s response – they haven’t made any false or disparaging statements against Tinder. The campaign is not deterring people from using their site, it’s to remind people to practice safe sex. I highly doubt that people are going stop having sex due to the campaign, much less stop using Tinder. Even when the AIDS epidemic hit in the 80s, people were still having sex.

    I think the AIDS Healthcare Foundation is just trying to bring awareness because STDs has been on the backburner for a while. People are not going to know that it’s a problem if STD data is not made public. I think this will be a successful campaign in getting people to think about the consequences of not using protection. I know that persuasion may be a way to approach this, but when it comes to people’s health, we can’t afford to wait until people come around.

    Even though the campaign may be targeting a younger generation, I know a lot of my friends (Generation X and older Millennials) are using on-line dating so it would benefit all age groups. I feel people today are not as scared of STDs because of a couple of factors; more people have STD’s and you can take a pill and it will go away. Even though there isn’t a known cure for AIDs, it doesn’t come with a death sentence like it did over 20 years ago. The stigma of having an STD now isn’t the same as before. Today, people are living average lives living with AIDS and getting such STDs as gonorrhea, chlamydia, and crabs is viewed similar to getting a flu – take something to knock it out. Perhaps there should be more detailed and graphic consequences of STDs. For example, PSA’s cigarettes and diabetes ads are great!! Personally, Type II diabetes runs rampantly in my family and whenever I see those ad campaigns, I think twice about over doing the fun limit with sweets. Yes, shock and gross them in order to save lives.

  5. Although there are a few things to say against this campaign, I do believe it will make the right target group think about this cause. It's a given that since dating apps like Tinder and Grindr are used so frequently, it became even easier to meet a (potential) next sex partner, which will most likely increase the amount of people with a STD. I do believe this message and the link they try to show between dating apps and STD's can make people between 20 and 35 (men and women) think for a second. It also gives clear information on where you can go for a free test.

    The lack of any supporting (background) information, details or environment to relate with makes it less strong to me than it could have been.

    - Lucette

  6. The first thing I did was to go to to learn more about the organization. On their home page, they have the same visual featured on the billboard. The organization is trying to promote their free STD test by showing how quickly sexually infections can be now transmitted. I think the ad will work because viewers will easily understand the message with the few key words.
    On the other hand, I think the organization should have not used OOH for advertising; the audience is millenniums who are usually on their phone all day long which is the correct place to find this target consumer.

    Angelica Almeida

  7. As a Gen Xer, and a teen in the mid 80's, I remember the specter of AIDS hanging over us. It was in the news a lot as the media picked up on how bad it really was. The message was everywhere, in the mass media, television shows, PSAs, documentaries, health education(various) and even movies. The bombardment was almost constant once the ball got rolling. At the beginning it was almost unheard of; ignored by almost everyone except maybe the gay community. It took a lot of effort to finally get the message out to the mainstream. Once the message reached critical mass, everyone started to take precautions. The era of "free love" was now way over. Taking precautions and making sure your partner(s) were clean was the name of the game.
    I guess the lessons of the past have faded from memory. Now with the internet and the availability of various online dating platforms, it's easier than ever to meet people. Tinder and all the other sites/apps should actually help spread awareness of STDs. They should have promotions which promote safe sex and education on understanding and preventing STDs. It would actually help somewhat. A billboard campaign is ok, but not as effective at reaching a lot of people. Especially the demographics that are participating in hook up culture. The best way to reach them is online. To do that would require the cooperation of the dating sites and any other social media type site that people meet on.
    I have some experience with online dating sites. It would actually be simple for them to participate in helping spread awareness of the problem. Some sites post articles on dating all the time so this should not be an issue. Promoting customer safety would benefit them and their customers. It may be self serving, but keeping your customers safe is also an ethically sound business strategy. If the customers are educated about STDs, then they are less likely to contract them, and will continue to use the site. Essentially, it's good for the consumers, and good for the dating sites.

    -George M TSevdos

    1. George, as a fellow Gen Xer I agree with you too, but Gaby P brought up a great approach - persuasion. It may not work for our generation, but it may work for Millennials. Plus, another person who commented was very much put off by the ad. Maybe that’s how things work for that group even though we may not understand it.

      I wonder if we are being cynical, but I keep wondering how you get others to have a sense of urgency without using some kind of scare tactic? We’re encouraged to do our part in reducing waste, recycling, and saving the planet, but the general public is not taking it seriously. I know we have different mindsets so the gentle push may work for them whereas harsh tactics work for us. I’m still on the fence and conflicted about which tactic to use. I guess when it comes to health, whether it’s diabetes, cancer, AIDS, I just don’t have patience to wait for people to get on board to take things seriously. Especially when we (Gen X) were scared straight about contracting the AIDS virus after seeing the disease affecting people who didn’t fit the stereotype – drug users or gay men. However, I can understand that some may take it personally and get turned off by the message.

      I also agree with you in regard to getting the message out via online instead of billboards, especially to the Millennials. Partnering with the online dating sites would be fantastic. Message would be – keep on having as much sex as you want as long as you’re practicing safe sex. I think that would be a win-win situation for everyone!

  8. Nicole Espinosa
    Blog 5
    Tinder, STD’s, Billboard for Free Checkups
    I think any kind of awareness in respect to the prevention of STD’s can only be beneficial. The jarring statistics regarding the increase of STD’s definitely makes this issue an important one. I commend the Aids Healthcare Foundation in being proactive in sending the message for people to get their free checkups. Since 59% of people find the internet a suitable place to find a partner I think it is important to deliver that message to those people who use that medium.
    I can think of a few ways that AHF campaign can be more effective:
    1.) Possibly team up with the internet websites (Tinder, Grindr). Placing ads on their sites and creating a more positive edge to getting a check up.
    2.) Instead of outlined figures they could put statistics of on line users and increase of STD’s.
    3.) AHF could use celebrities to persuade to get check ups (using social proof and reciprocity method).
    4.) Emphasize FREE.

  9. First of all, I think that this campaign should incorporate different types of advertising methods to reach the mass audiences, especially Millennials. Everyone is constantly on their electronic devices these days, so if companies want to reach their audiences, then they must have their ads displayed on the internet. That being said, I don't see any issues with the idea of promoting safety, but I found it a little too harsh to incorporate these online dating apps/websites within the ad itself. If AHF wanted to get people thinking, then why not post the statistics on their billboards instead of mentioning names? If AHF wanted to get people to stop and think about their safety, then they must think of different ways to persuade their audiences, whether it be through ads or through more education.

    As for how people can get their free checkups, what about continuing to promote checkups at schools, universities, jobs, etc? I, personally, do not find the billboard idea to be as effective as AHF thought it would be (thinking about Millennials who, again, are glued to their screens). They should have thought to have this ad appear as a sponsored post on social media websites such as FaceBook or Instagram. They should also think about creating TV ads that incorporate statistics so that people can become aware of the possible danger of being unaware.

    -Sweta P.

  10. It is my belief that these high-risk behaviors that have become more common in recent years does correlate with the use of social media to arrange casual and often anonymous sexual encounters. Moreover, these casual encounters probably cause many to have sex without a condom, to have multiple partners, and to have sex while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. I think these billboards can help encourage young people to at least begin thinking about talking to a doctor, nurse, or health educator about sexual health before becoming sexually active and especially after becoming sexually active. In addition, I believe that a big part of the problem is that with online dating, you start off when you meet the person with a higher level of intimacy. You feel like you know them because you’ve had this correspondence, and physical intimacy proceeds a lot faster. Typically, the more we know someone, the less likely in general we are to think they have an STD.

  11. There are many good comments and suggestions here that I agree with. For example, I think Claudine's suggestion about scaring people about STD might be an effective improvement for the ad. Show statistics, provide information about consequences etc.!
    Also, like Wendan said, I don't think it is fair to associate these dating apps with STDs.
    Moreover, I think it might even be hard for people to understand the ad since they haven't used any logos of the dating apps or explained that they are dating apps. Hence, young people who don't use dating apps, but still could benefit from getting a free test, might not get the ad... So, I don't think this is an effective campaign.

    Other suggestions and changes that might be effective are:
    - Emphasize more that it is free. Also, maybe give something additional that is free, e.g. a checkup, a condom etc.
    - Show the ad on social media instead. I think that will reach the target audience better!
    - Provide more and clearer information about where to go and how to get these free tests, e.g. write out a website, phone number, etc. to book an appointment!

  12. I think what AHF is trying to accomplish is encourage the practice of safe sex. They are responding to some recent data from health departments showing an increase in STDs for 2014 vs. 2013. The numbers are alarming and that this is a global trend as similar data from the Philippines and Wales reflect those numbers.

    I think it is an effective campaign as social media has infiltrated our daily lives including dating online. Free online dating sites like Tinder and Grindr are wildly known for just hooking up. Unlike paid online dating sites like, JDate and EHarmony members are more invested and serious about dating and more committed to forming a relationship rather than a one-night stand. Members are somewhat vetted as they have to fill out a long profile questionnaire and have customer service representative available to answer any questions or concerns.

    Millennials are more apt to using free dating sites like Tinder because for financial reasons. Also Millennials didn’t grow up in the age of AIDS and therefore aren’t as proactive in practicing safe sex as opposed to Gen X who grew up in the 80’s and 90’s where AIDS epidemic were rampant.

    Another effective way to motivate people to get free check up is to advertise it online as this ad is more targeted to Millennials than any other age group and they are always online and on their mobile devices. The FREE STD check-up is a good sell for Millennials but they should also emphasize that is private and anonymous. I think this will encourage them more to act and get tested.

    Girlie E. Gaviola

  13. This doesn't strike me as particularly provocative or motivating. Perhaps that's because I am exposed to "out there" marketing campaigns constantly, but I find this ad mainstream, to be honest.

    When the AIDS epidemic came to light in the 80s, the action uproar was fueled by ads and protests that were once considered shocking. Now, this ad makes me feel nostalgic to what I imagine the AIDS epidemic was branded as: a youth crisis.

    That being said, it is of course frightening to hear the statistics and even more so important to spread awareness of the risks of dating - both online and off. I do not necessarily believe this ad will enable change, but rather education and open communication. The deep-rooted stigmatization of STDs is what ultimately causes people to avoid them, let them go undiagnosed, and even worse, spread them to others. Hopefully this ad will connect the dots for a few people, but not for me.

  14. To address the ad, I don't think it is in their best interest to link STDs to specific dating/hookup apps. I believe that sort of detracts from the overall message, which is to administer free STD testing and the growing rate at which they are being contracted, not to point fingers and get into lawsuits. They could have worked cooperatively with these apps and maybe reached a wider base, maybe even with support. Conversely, they have to spread their message and if burning a few bridges along the way is it, then so be it. Billboards still hold appeal to me, not so much in New York because you’re always walking with your head down and dodging foot traffic, maybe even a UPS truck, but in big cities like Houston, Dallas and LA almost everyone has a car and traffic is always piled up. There are long stretches of highway for a persons everyday commute, a lot of which are millennials, so I believe they hit their mark there, maybe a billboard wouldn’t work in NYC though. As several others have said, promoting awareness on mobile devices and social media will most likely be the most effective for this generation.

    Jason Dunaway

  15. Wow, after reading the many responses, it gave me a lot of food for thought. I agree with emphasizing the “free” aspect and working with the online dating services. Have a section where you can find locations to get free testing (I wonder if anyone is thinking about Planned Parenthood).

    This dialogue also got me thinking about how our value/moral system has changed and how much of it is affected by social media. An “unknown” commenter said, “. . . high-risk behaviors that have become more common in recent years does correlate with the use of social media to arrange casual and often anonymous sexual encounters.” I may be going off on a tangent, but is there a bigger issue regarding the apathy towards sex? Does the younger generation have an unhealthy/dangerous outlook on sex and relationships?

    I did a little research on casual sex among Millennials and was shocked to find out that the “hook-up” generation is not having casual sex at a higher rate than adults before. According to an article in Rolling Stone, Millennials would rather be in a relationship than have several one-night stands. A student at Harvard University stated a reason why Harvard students are choosing not to date exclusively – “You assholes keep telling us Millenials aren’t serious enough so we’re focusing on serious things like class and shit instead of dates.” Ouch!!

    On the other hand, Lori Gottlieb, a psychologist and author, thinks Millennials have the inability to understand and cultivate love and blames their parents. Gottlieb believes Millennials have been too coddled by their parents and teachers, thus making them unable to accept others’ opinions and realities.

    This revelation has certainly debunked my perception of the younger generation having numerous casual sex encounters, however, I wonder how social media and online dating services are affecting the youth’s casual outlook on relationships and sex.

  16. Thinking on what we had discussed in our first class, of how to evaluate advertising, I have mixed feelings about the effectiveness of this ad. In terms of target audience, I believe the ad's audience may be actual users of Grindr and Tinder. I'm not very knowledgeable of dating apps but it's my understanding that there is the perception that the Tinder and Grindr apps are more for "hookups" rather than finding a long-term relationship (I think using the name "Grindr" for an app already sets a certain connotation of what the app is for...). If I was looking to meet someone via an app for a casual fling, I myself would sign up for Tinder (and not, for example, a site like eHarmony). Though I can see why Tinder and Grindr can be upset about how this ad portrays their company, to me, this ad is saying, "If you use Tinder or Grindr (probably for hookups), you may be at risk for an STD, get checked out for free." So as others mentioned in their comments, I think the emotional pull/motivating factor here would be fear - "Oh no, I use Tinder, I use Grindr, I should check this website out." (Because if I wasn't a user of Tinder or Grindr, why would I care or worry about STDs? And why would I be motivated to check out this site to learn more?)

    However, the reason why I'm not sure whether it will be effective, or at least, the effectiveness of the ad may be hard to measure, is that I'm not quite sure about the media selection. I can somewhat understand the placement of this ad at bus stops - you might be standing around with time to spare while waiting for the bus - but do users of Tinder and Grindr actually take the bus? I'm not from LA/California but when I visited LA a few years ago, I remember feeling like all the bus stops were always empty and it felt like no one took buses to get anywhere (and my friends from California always tell me that everyone gets around with their own cars). So I wonder if placing ads at bus stops would be the most appropriate placement for this ad. As for the other billboards placed around LA, I imagine even if people see them, you risk losing the engagement because they can't immediately "click-through" to access the site to learn more/get screened. If your target audience is the Tinder or Grindr app users, wouldn't it make sense to advertise to them online so that they can immediately be directed via a link to the website to learn more/act? (Assuming that their target audience is actually users of Tinder/Grindr.)

    I guess the counter argument to all that though is that the controversial nature of the ad will probably capture the public's interest and as a result, generate the awareness for your campaign/safe sex/free std screening, etc.

  17. I don’t think that this campaing is going to work because the people are going to continuing using these apps and I don’t think the real reason to this increase of healthy problems are directly to only this apps. I think that the price of the protections to make sex is very expensive, so maybe one solution is given free condoms or female contraceptives to prevent. A good ad could be that if you make the free STD check you will receive free sex protections and before the test or after they can make a short speech to prevent this. For me is very strange to see ad’s with names of other companies like in this campaing because if I am not wrong, in Spain you can’t use the name of the other companies in your campaign, so I can understand that Tinder sent a cease.

  18. Although Aggressive, Fear is Effective :

    As we have discussed in class, instilling fear in the target audience is typically used in advertisements. I believe that a common stigma with using Tinder is the fear of dating somebody who is crazy or carrying an STD.. By raising the possibility of contracting an STD while using Tinder, the advertisement is instilling fear.
    This advertisement is very similar in this manner to the smoking advertisement on the subway, which we critiqued in class. Although it is aggressive, it is effective.