AIDS2012: Clinton, Gates, & Zawadi Smartlove

AIDS2012: Clinton, Gates, & Zawadi Smartlove

 In Digital Media, PR Strategy, Social Media, Women’s Health

How do you compete for media attention against the likes of Elton John, Hillary Clinton, and Melinda Gates at the International AIDS Conference?  Zawadi Smartlove, a lesser known (but highly visible) figure and relative newcomer to the AIDS stage did just that.

While she’s not a celebrity, a scientist or a world leader, Zawadi – a paper doll – contended with conference notables by providing a visual that spoke louder than words, making an impression both on-site and in resulting media coverage.

Strung together in an impressive installation at the AIDS conference, nearly 20,000 paper dolls created a powerful chain representing global the demand for improved access to HIV/AIDS prevention tools. Part of an innovative grassroots campaign led by the Universal Access to Female Condoms (UAFC) Joint Programme, the ‘Paper Doll Campaign,’ joins the personal messages and stories of individuals who support female condoms in more than 60 countries, handwritten on the backs of paper dolls. Their goal is to overcome myth and social stigma currently limiting availability of this cost-effective and lifesaving tool in
more than 120 countries.

Working with the UAFC presented a unique opportunity for JPA to put down the pen, and let a picture do the talking. Recognizing the dolls’ ability to provide a powerful, visual call-to-action for conference goers and media alike, JPA wanted UAFC’s Campaign to serve as the ‘opening visual’ to the AIDS conference. Early outreach to photo desks and wire services resulted in an above-the-fold feature in the Sunday Washington Post – alongside the AIDS quilt – on opening day.

Throughout the six day conference, Zawadi and her brightly colored friends hung from the rafters and draped down hallways, and were even carried through the streets of Washington in a march to the White House. Each of these visual opportunities was leveraged by JPA, resulting in additional coverage of the cause by Yahoo! News, the Thompson Reuters Foundation and NPR.

When trying to break through the noise of a crowded global event, remember Zawadi and consider whether a powerful visual could as the focal point of your PR strategy to help you stand out from the crowd.