Weekly Ad Uncoiling: MTV’s Staying-Alive.org

You work in this soul-crushing business for as many years as I have, you relish the chance to do some pro-bono Cause advertising, the chance to Do Some Good. For me, that chance came a few years when I got to write a Drug-Free America TV spot which dramatically illustrated that Drugs Don’t Work in the office — which is of course a position I wholeheartedly disagree with.

I’ve never gotten the chance to work on AIDS awareness/prevention like the lucky creators of this :60 spot from ad agency Lowe Mena in Dubai. It’s for MTV’s staying-alive.org. Such a slick motherfuckin’ spot, huh? The editing. The spot-on casting. The trippy, ethereal music. The cool voiceover…”Can you hear me, taste me? Barroom brawler or prom queen…” And of course, the simply brilliant creative linchpin: chewing gum. Such a perfect metaphor for casual sex. Except of course, you can’t get AIDS through saliva exchange, or drinking lover’s spit. But then, why let “logic” or “responsibility” get in the way of the sacred artistic ad process? What are you, copyranter? An asshole account executive?

10 Responses to “Weekly Ad Uncoiling: MTV’s Staying-Alive.org”

  1. kc Says:

    We live in bizarro-world! When have ‘facts’ actually been important to anyone but a select few?

  2. Karri Says:

    Every hormone-euphoric teenager out there has had to endure more education on the realities of HIV than a person who graduated college some sixteen years ago. They can probably spout facts about the transfer statistics for unprotected anal sex versus dental dams. What those dry, endless sermons from withering, sexless educators doesn’t give them is the cold, heartlessness of the disease. Yes, the hot Asian girl, or well put together beau you are undressing with your eyes might be carrying.

  3. Skerror Says:


  4. cappy Says:

    What? I didn’t see abstinence promoted not once in that. :P

  5. Luai_lashire Says:

    At Karri: Speaking as a current high school student, I can guarantee you that that the average kid my age (17) has no clue that you can even get STDs from anal sex. Most of them learn about anatomy from watching porn, not from school, and pick up the rest of their “sex ed.” from a combination of chatting with friends, more porn, and the media. A tiny fraction of what they know actually comes from a sex ed. class.
    Oh, sure, we all know what AIDS is. We know you get it from having sex or using drugs and if you get it you’re gonna die. That’s about all most kids seem to know. Of course it varies from area to area, depending on the quality of education and the local culture, but in general, teenagers are not very knowledgeable about STDs. They THINK they are- but they aren’t.

    The ad…. eh, it’s OK. Not the worst AIDS ad I’ve ever seen, nor by far the best. Just “eh”.
    I get what they’re trying to say with the gum, passing it around, “you don’t know where that thing’s been” blah blah blah, but it’s not a very good metaphor. Kind of an eye-roller.

  6. Kale Kip Says:

    Just because people are actually advertising something that can be considered morally just, it doesn’t mean they have to stop lying. I mean, dude, it still is advertising.

  7. Karri Says:


    Let me first just say that for 17, you put your thoughts together remarkably well.

    I guess I was in high school in the early 90’s when AIDS was in its media heyday. I couldn’t round a corner without running into some poster or after school program promoting AIDS awareness, We had school-wide lectures about STDs. It didn’t occur to me that it might not have stayed that way. It makes sense though. since there are a LOT of issues out there to have to sort out between 14 and 18.

    As far as the ad, the reason I like it is that in my mind, people still seem think that sleeping with someone who is vibrant, young and healthy-looking won’t get them killed. The ad managed to keep my attention until it got the message across. Which is hard to do in a PSA.

  8. Nadya Says:

    I think it’s different depending on the teacher… in ’97 we had an awesome teacher for Sex Ed who explained the reasons why anal sex is dangerous for transmitting HIV in a way that didn’t shy away from details, but was also totally clinical. I think it was awesome. The next year I moved to another school and the teacher just could not even get the words out – I asked him to explain just to watch him squirm, which in retrospect was probably a mean thing to do. We didn’t learn about dental dams in school, though. I didn’t know what those were until I talked to a young female gynecologist who gave me a long spiel about what they are, showed me a sample, etc. I had no idea that even existed. And after she gave me her long serious speech she was like, “by the way? Saran Wrap works just as well. Just an FYI.” Haha.

  9. BlueAnchorNatasha Says:

    Sobering. Therefore making me extremely glad Ive found my mate already, and that neither of us have ever really bothered with other people when we werent together.

    As for the ad, Im not sure what the rant is, but I agree that its a great metaphor. Which is why its so sobering.

  10. Erin Says: