Research type 
Year of report 

Summary of findings


The research findings indicate that:

  • A clear set of differences in attitudes toward sexual health issues emerged between men and women across the primary audience sample
  • Female respondents were generally more aware and concerned about sexual health issues.
  • By comparison, men were significantly less interested and concerned about sexual health issues. In general, they did not seem to consider sexual health issues to be important
  • Class differences were also recorded
  • The choice of creative route, for a Sexual Health Campaign aimed at 15-34 year old men and women, is not clear cut.
  • The three creative routes tested were tasked with the communication aim of ‘normalising’ condom use.
  • The decision effectively lies between two routes: Condom Essential Wear or Use a Condom, not an Excuse.
  • The Sexual History route emerged as the weakest of the three options under consideration
  • Additionally, choosing between the two routes, Condom Essential Wear and Use a Condom, not an Excuse, seems both difficult and complex – since both routes have clear weaknesses in terms of reaching the primary audience with a personally motivating message to use a condom.
  • Both routes, Essential Wear and Use a Condom, not an Excuse, have specific strengths and weaknesses. It seems that the final choice will be determined by the needs of key target groups for the campaign. The ability of the creative teams to effectively address the executional issues will also be important.
  • It was clear that the ‘Use a condom’ message was not new to this audience or particularly interesting (least of all for younger men). A new `angle’ is needed to prompt personal reassessment of the personal benefits of condom use – and it seems that the campaign primary audience of 15 –34 year old men and women requires targeted messages about condom use to effectively increase impact and relevance.
  • Parents typically supported both the campaign aims and intended media channels. All felt that the campaign was much needed
  • Gay men were very familiar with advice and warnings on condom use and STIs from gay media and press. There was, however, no interest in a government campaign aimed at the heterosexual community
  • Bisexual men typically reflected the views of the primary heterosexual audience.
  • Reactions of male and female African respondents, aged between 15 and 34 years, to the campaigns broadly mirrored the reactions of the main male and female target audiences
  • However, African respondents were conscious that attitudes towards sex are considerably more conservative amongst their communities and that in some communities an entirely different and targeted approach would be required

Research objectives


The research aimed to assess the communication approach of three potential creative routes. The specific objectives for the research were as follows:

  • To assess each creative route in terms of a number of creative parameters
  • To evaluate views of the primary audience and secondary audiences.
  • To provide recommendations for the creative route offering the most potential of achieving the campaign aims



COI, in conjunction with the Department of Health, commissioned Research Works Ltd to conduct a qualitative research evaluation of three potential creative routes for the Sexual Health Campaign planned for 2005. The project was required to assess the communication approach of each route and identify the route with most potential for future creative development.

The Public Health White Paper commitment says that DH will develop a ‘new national campaign, targeted particularly at younger men and women, to ensure that they understand the real risk of unprotected sex and to persuade them of the benefits of using condoms to avoid the risk of sexually transmitted infections or unintended pregnancies’.

The overall aim of the Sexual Health Campaign was to normalise condom use amongst a primary audience of 15-34 year old men and women. The specific campaign objectives tested here were:

  • to stabilise and then drive down STIs by a strong prevention message
  • to raise awareness/knowledge of STIs generally in terms of their prevalence, symptoms(or lack of), long term consequences- reduce the subject’s taboo status
  • to raise understanding of how people can take control and act now to stop the spread of STIs
  • to ‘normalise’ condom use amongst all sexually active adults
  • to create an identity for a high profile source of information clearly branded NHS
  • to make sure young people have enough information about sexual health to make informed choices about safer sex

Research participants


The study spoke to sexually active men and women aged 15-34, and some parents aged 35-50

Audience Summary



Other Gender

Bisexual men


  • General population
  • African men and women


  • 15-19
  • 20-25
  • 26-34

Social Class

  • A
  • B
  • C1
  • C2
  • D
  • E


Data collection methodology

Depth interviews
Focus groups

Other data collection methodology


A series of 15 focus groups and 8 individual depth interviews were conducted. The focus groups each consisted of 8 respondents and lasted 2 hours.

Sample size


15 focus groups (8 in each group, lasting 2 hrs) and 8 individual depths

Detailed region


Blackpool, Liverpool, Birmingham, Watford, Sutton, Richmond, Truro

Fieldwork dates


6 – 16th June 2005

Agree to publish





This report is classified as sensitive as it deals with young people.

Research agency

Research works

COI Number


Report format