Trojan vs. Candies Foundation

To condom, or not to condom… that is the question.

Last week, a new Candies Foundation PSA was released during Gossip Girl (I guess the Candies Foundation thought they might as well hit the audience most likely to be “hooking up“).  Here’s that PSA:

The Candies Foundation exists to educate America’s youth about the devastating consequences of teen pregnancy. Their approach is quite the opposite of Trojan (who coincidentally, would love to sell a bunch of condoms). Hmmmmmm.

Much of the world seems to be siding with Trojan’s approach. “Have sex… just be safe.” (an easy sell, mind you) USA Today even refused to post a full page ad for the Candies Foundation’s “America, Wake-up!” PSA campaign.

Ypulse.com chimed in on the issue on 10/29/08 with guest poster Libby Issendorf. She didn’t care for Candies’ PSA.

The ad doesn’t choose sides in the abstinence vs. contraceptives debate; it just presents pregnancy as the consequence of sex. This tactic might scare teens, but the ad won’t succeed without a viable solution to this fear. Candie’s needs to advocate a method of protection instead of preaching, “If you have sex, you’ll get pregnant!”

The way Jenny McCarthy pops in and the girl’s snobby attitude toward her turn Candie’s into a nagging parent. I half-expected her to add, “And clean your room, young lady!” before the commercial ended. Couple this tone with the unresolved scare tactic, and the commercial comes across as an empty threat that makes most teens roll their eyes.

I’m equally disappointed in the website.The first things to catch my eye are images of a lovely Jamie Lynn, a poised Bristol and Levi, and four teenage girls, two with bulging pregnant bellies, on a carefree stroll. The photos glamorize teen pregnancy more than condemn it, and the entire site is boring and unattractive. I can’t interact with it beyond joining a Facebook group, and the “tips for parents” section will make teens feel as though this isn’t their space.

In contrast to this lackluster effort, I love Trojan’s Evolve campaign that encourages teens to use a condom every time. The website is incredibly attractive and easy to use. My favorite part is the “donate 1,000,000 condoms” feature. Teens can take a quiz, comment, and pass videos on to friends. Then, for every action, Trojan donates condoms to Americans at risk. So cool!

Although Libby seems knowledgeable in marketing and teenage perception, I can’t say I agree with her knowledge about the spread of STDs. Her contention that “Candie’s needs to advocate a method of protection instead of preaching, ‘If you have sex, you’ll get pregnant!‘” reveals her bias. Libby obviously sees “protection” as the only option, since we live in a world that apparently just can’t wait for sex!

I’d like to Ask Libby a few questions:

1. What does Trojan provide to protect against a broken heart, seeing that eight out of ten first time teen sexual relationship last six months or less, and most teenagers who have sex, regret it later and wish they had waited?

2. How effective is a condom against chlamydia, which is one of the leading cause of sterility in women? Where are condoms in that assault?

3. What is the leading cause of cervical cancer in women? How effective are condoms against that?

4. Who are we to believe: a foundation that seems to care about the decisions teenagers are making? Or a condom company that wants to sell more condoms?

About Jonathan McKee

president of The Source for Youth Ministry, is the author of over twenty books including the brand new If I Had a Parenting Do Over, 52 Ways to Connect with Your Smartphone Obsessed Kid; Sex Matters; The Amazon Best Seller - The Guy's Guide to God, Girls and the Phone in Your Pocket; and youth ministry books like Ministry By Teenagers; Connect; and the 10-Minute Talks series. He has over 20 years youth ministry experience and speaks to parents and leaders worldwide, all while providing free resources for youth workers and parents on his websites, TheSource4YM.com and TheSource4Parents.com. You can follow Jonathan on his blog, getting a regular dose of youth culture and parenting help. Jonathan, his wife Lori, and their three kids live in California.
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20 Responses to Trojan vs. Candies Foundation

  1. When I said, “The ad doesn’t choose sides in the abstinence vs. contraceptives debate,” I made clear the problem with the campaign. It’s not that it doesn’t promote “safe sex” over abstinence; it’s that it has a bad strategy.

    My argument is from a marketing standpoint: fear ads that don’t present a clear solution to the problem just don’t work. Candie’s needs to decide whether it’s promoting abstinence or safe sex; it can’t just wave pregnancy around as a consequence without explaining how best to avoid it.

    Please don’t accuse me of “obviously [seeing] ‘protection’ as the only option.” I stated that Candie’s needs to firmly choose and present one solution to the pregnancy problem in order to be effective. By “protection” I meant protection against teen pregnancy; you were quick to jump to the conclusion that this meant condoms. I meant abstinence, condoms, other contraceptives—anything Candie’s wanted to stand behind that wasn’t an empty threat.

    Whatever your problems with my analysis, you can’t deny that the Candie’s Foundation is poorly executed and could be much more effective.

    In response to your questions: Does the Candie’s Foundation say anything against “protecting against a broken heart”? Does it reveal statistics about short-lived teen romances or regret? And while you might have a problem with a condom company pushing condoms, I have a problem with a shoe company creating a poor campaign under the guise of a nonprofit organization in order to check “cause marketing” off their corporate to-do list.

  2. Libby… thanks for your clarifications. I agree with your marketing insight. But don’t slap my hand for reading between the lines. I don’t think it was much of a leap for me to consider your reference to “protection” as to mean “condoms.” (How often is the word “protection” used to mean something else when we’re talking about teen pregnancy- and then Trojan ads???)

    I agree with you that Candies communication might be a little poor. I didn’t even see their true objective verbalized very clear. I’m guessing they are pushing mere “education.” Candies seems (I’m reading between the lines again) to be suggesting abstinence. After all, why would they be providing information that most teenagers regret their first sexual experience? So teenagers will use a condom? No. It’s so they might consider “waiting.” But let’s be honest. Abstinence isn’t a very popular position right now… right? If they use the word “abstinence,” the campaign would probably be rejected more than it already is.

    From the layman’s perspective (that’s me), this looks like another example of one side (Trojan) saying, “Waiting is ridiculous, just use a condom.” While the other side (Candies) is saying, “Stop and think. Maybe it’s not something to just leap into. There are consequences to consider. Get all the information first. And maybe… waiting is the answer.”

    Maybe Candies needs a few tips on how to run a campaign. But it seemed like your criticisms extended beyond marketing. I apologize if I misread.

  3. Trojan took a bold move and became the educator. Their website provides shocking facts about HIV, percentage of 18-24 year olds that never use a condom (85%!), and global comparisons regarding STDs. Those can have just as much of an impact as a possible pregnancy on the decision to have sex or whether or not to use protection. Trojan is presenting both sides of the situation. Yes they want to sell their product, but no one else, not even Candie’s, is showing all the consequences of having unprotected sex, or sex in general.

    The fear based approach that Candie’s takes will never work. For those teens that do have sex and don’t get pregnant will realize that they are not like people in the ad. You need to show both sides of the situation and show people HOW to prevent pregnancy. I don’t want a baby, but what are my options to not have one? Candie’s needs to be up front about their message and whether or not they are presenting an abstinence message or a safe sex message.

    Many teens think waiting IS ridiculous and Trojan is being honest with this reality by providing information AND a solution. If they have larger profits, great. If it lowers the teen pregnancy rate, even better.

  4. Sure, Trojan does provide good stats as to how many people don’t use condemns. But come on… they aren’t talking about how ineffective condoms are with HPV, chlamydia, etc. (check out my Center for Disease Control links for those diseases above if you want truly impartial information on condom effectiveness)

    But why would they talk about that? That would mean less sales.

  5. David Paul Grigg says:

    First of all, thanks for the blog Jonathon. It’s awesome.

    And second, I’m not sure why you even have to “read between the lines” on the Candies Foundation website. The link to go to the teen page is entitled “I vow not now”. No, they don’t tell you when it’s ok to have sex, but they absolutely lean towards waiting until marriage to have sex. That’s just my take on that.

    About Trojan taking a “bold move” and “becoming and educator”. Trojan is not presenting both sides of the situation. The ONLY thing that is talked about on their website is “use a condom every time”. They are absolutely pushing an agenda, and are outright saying that it’s ok for teens to have sex as long as they use a condom. The only solution that they are providing for teen pregnancy and STD’s are using their condoms (which in my opinion is NOT the right solution).

  6. Chico Viars says:

    How about this observation. It would appear to me that if the Trojan website posted that 85% of 18-24 year olds never use a condom, it would be more incentive for people to not use them. The idea is, “Well, if 85% of people my age aren’t using condoms, they must be overrated.” Think like a teen for a second. You know, a teen who thinks they have all this “relationship stuff” figured out (along with everything else) and whose hormones are having WW3. That 85% to them relates to “most of the people I know” and since I don’t know anyone who is pregnant or has an STD, why bother with a condom WHEN I have sex? See how easy it is to jump from “here’s some info” to “well, since I’m going to have sex“?

  7. Shaun Dickerson says:

    Ads that promote “safe sex” or now they are billing it a little more correctly “safer sex”, leave teens with a mixed message and a thought process that says “nothing bad can happen to me because I’m using a condom”. Let’s face it, a commercial that covers all the needed info, would be to long and to expensive for either side and it wouldn’t keep anybody’s interest for that long. This ad covered the fact that the kids didn’t think there was anything to worry about. So what were they referring to? Nothing to worry about because: “most teens think that nothing bad will happen to them”, or nothing to worry about because “they were using a condom”, either way it addressed a teenagers mindset, and to get them to look at reality. Because that is the solution. Getting teenagers to think through their choices and what the consequences are (whether good or bad) Telling a teenager “if your going to do it make sure your safe” or to practice “safer sex” simple leaves the “invincible” teenage mindset thinking that they are going to beat the odds. I agree with Jonathan, check out the CDC site for truly impartial info. And what makes this info even scarier for teenagers is that teenagers are not included in most statistics concerning condom effectiveness against pregnancy.

    And whether or not teens think it IS ridiculous to wait, has absolutely nothing to do with the hard core facts. Couples that consistently and correctly use a condom experience an 85% success, or 15% failure rate the first year. HIV also shows an 85% success or 15% failure, all other STD/STI’s protection info is vague after that because there are to many variables that come into play. While it is generally believed that condoms will offer some risk reduction, at what percentage is really up in the air. No hard data to verify, most speculate around 50% risk reduction.

    I find it interesting that websites like “takecaredownthere” who done similar skit/ads in a humorous fashion but promoted condom use are praised, but this organizations ad is criticized because it supposedly is fear based?

    Why is it that we have no problem telling teens that smoking is bad, that drinking alcohol is bad, doing drugs is bad? But telling them that sex has consequences and they should wait,….well that’s just impractical their going to do it anyway! Let’s apply the same logic to the other things I just mentioned. Let’s show them how to do it safe…….

  8. jon says:

    i’m a little slow, but when i went to the candies website and “scanned” their info, the thing that initially stuck out to me was the tag line “pause before you play.” i reread jonathan’s blog and then went back to the candies site before i realized that the tag line was not referring to pause for a second to get a condom before sex. like i say, i’m a little slow and while i now appreciate candies purpose more i’m afraid the avg teen and i were lost.

  9. Lisa says:

    I am a high school teacher. Just this afternoon, two of my 11th grade students walked into class late, returning from a visit to the doctor where they found out their baby is a girl. He’s a little bummed; he really wanted a boy. And I wanted to cry. They are clueless. Here is yet another child who will be raised in a very unstable family situation and, most likely, poverty. Let’s do an ad that shows this young single mom in 5 years, with a toddler or two, working a job or two, trying to figure out where her life went. Regrettably, most of these kids can’t see past the next 5 minutes.

  10. Dave Justis says:

    I am a youth pastor with a group of about 30. Currently, I have 3 pregnant girls in my group, 2 who are 16 and are having their 2nd babies. This is really tough to deal with because I know that the kids will never have any quality of life. Most churches I have had contact with just like to stick their heads in the sand and pretend it doesn’t happen, or say, “don’t do it.” We just don’t like to deal with it, it is a taboo subject. So where are the teens getting their info from…Porn tv, whoops my bad, MTV. I’m not sure what all the answers are, and I’m sure I’ll catch a TON of flack for my next statement, but I’ll make it anyway. I believe we need to change our basic stance on birth control for girls and start encouraging parents to help their daughters to get it. We all know the evils of teen pregnancy and the harm it does, no body will argue that. I know most of the flack I catch now is, “It gives them an ok to do it.” I don’t see it that way at all. I see it as me protecting my precious little angel from a hundred thousand dollar mistake that can ruin her life, the kids like, and maybe even my life, because the parents usually end up raising the kid. I have talked with teens and asked them, “Would you feel like this gives you the OK to have sex?” the overwhelming answer was “No.” Most said they actually would feel closer to their parents from it. I know this will be an emotionally charged topic, and I’m ready for some other ideas on the subject. By the way, I do preach abstinence until marriage as the best and only safe way to have sex.

  11. Chico Viars says:

    Dave,
    Let me start by saying that this is in no way an attack on you or your ministry. I could probably go to hundreds or even thousands of churches across the nation and find a very similar situation. Personally, I’m all for giving teens all the information possible on every issue we come across. I AM the kid who was told “Don’t do [fill in the activity] because it’s a sin.” And guess what? I went out and did [fill in the activity]. By the grace of God, I never found myself in the dire straits that kids today (and even back then) find themselves in. I said all that so that I can say this. The one thing that jumps out at me in your post is that 2 of the girls are having their 2nd babies. There seems to be, at face value, some sort of relationship issue there that needs to be addressed. Whether it’s low self-esteem/self-worth, having really poor judgement in choosing guys (duh!), some kind of “dad” issue or whatever. If I were faced with this problem, I would try first and foremost to address their spiritual problems. I mean, let’s face it. Odds are that a girl who is truly living for Christ and is guided by and obeys the Holy Spirit is more than likely not going to get pregnant. Yes, before the flames start, I realize that people make mistakes and anything is possible. But, I think I remember reading somewhere something about how when we accept Christ as Savior, old things pass away. We don’t really need to keep talking about abstinence with people who are following Christ, because it’s not in their heart to have premarital sex. The problem for us, as youth workers, is to get them to that point where they are truly following Christ.

  12. georgiagirl says:

    i personally don’t believe in the “wait till marriage” bullcrap i hear all the time, from ex friends who can’t take a joke, to other people. cause what if a girl waits to till marriage but it turns out her hubby has an std and gave it to her and she didn’t know he had one? i believe always use some form of protection, such as condoms, birth control, spermicides, etc. although i do agree with the “if you don’t practice safe sex this COULD happen to you”
    and my stanf point on the 85% of teens who don’t use one is cause we don’t have easy access to them, yea sure there’s the gas station bathroom condoms that chances are are expired. and some teen girls who are “active” may be afraid to go to the store and buy them herself so she can protect her self because she’s afraid if the social stigma we put on this subject.
    and i bet that teens who grow up in a sexually open enviroment will be less likely to engage in “inapporiate conduct” or if they do they will know the risks and how to prevent some of the risks
    and i most certainly am against the scare tatic because it doesn’t work, it may work one like 1 out of 10 girls and they’ll always be afraid to have sex or have a boyfriend.
    i say do what floats your boat, but if you’re gonna go down the “waiting” road, do it because you wait to have it for that “special guy” and don’t do it just “cause it’s a sin”
    i also good luck to ya for finding a guy who’ll wait, because all around he might be the one for you but if a guy doesn’t wanna wait to get some, he’s going to find a way to get some, weither it’s from you or a prositute or a ex girlfriend, or some s*** he met
    my veiw that i know i’ll teach my child when i’m ready to have one will be “if you do it, do it safe and remember i’m always here for you if you need anything” yea of course i might be disappointed but i’ll be proud that they were smart enough to do it safe and i’m not a grandma yet

  13. Many teens think waiting IS ridiculous and Trojan is being honest with this reality by providing information AND a solution. If they have larger profits, great. If it lowers the teen pregnancy rate, even better.

  14. wouldntyouliketoknow says:

    I agree with both sides of the argument. However i have a bigger problem with Trojan. First off, it seems like they are saying its ok have sex all of the time if you use a condom. However,A variety of studies have found that condoms have an “annual failure rate” of 10% to 36% when it comes to preventing pregnancy. One of the studies found that among teenagers, the condom failure rate regarding pregnancy was 36%! On average, that means that one out of every three teenage couples using condoms will become pregnant each year. So really, they aren’t as effective, BUT ITS SOMETHING.
    Its great Trojan is trying to make people aware, so i’m not fully against it. I think if you have sex and you aren’t on birth control use a condom.

    Well, I am 15. And the Candie’s commercial….SCARED ME! it worked and even my friends were saying out creepy it was too think of it like that. So, i think its working.

  15. mary says:

    i think that candies is trying to help teens. Unless you have had to make this choice for yourself what now that i am pregnant then do the pc thing like trogan. I see unwed teen moms and the fear, shame, and disappointment they display. If this ad helps one boy or girl prevent this. Great!!! Good job candies for standing up when so many get on the do what feels right for you bus, while the rest of us really are affected aswell, in one way or another through taxes, welfare, school system, or society in general. This ad is not targeted toward young over 18 adults. Its teens.

  16. Many teens thin waiting IS ridiculous and Trojan is being honest with this reality by providing a solution. If they have larger profits, great. If it lowers the teen pregnancy rate, even better.

  17. One of the studies found that among teenagers, the condom failure rate regarding pregnancy was 36%!

  18. Whatever your problems with my analysis, you can’t deny that the Candie’s Foundation is poorly executed and could be much more effective.

  19. i’m a little slow, but when i went to the candies website and “scanned” their info, the thing that initially stuck out to me was the tag line “pause before you play.” i reread jonathan’s blog and then went back to the candies site before i realized that the tag line was not referring to pause for a second to get a condom before sex. like i say, i’m a little slow and while i now appreciate candies purpose more i’m afraid the avg teen and i were lost.

  20. yes, i do agree with you!