Free condoms: The way to keep Twitter from mocking your campaign

The Durex World AIDS Day campaign is a corporate-sponsored Twitter promotion that didn’t backfire horribly against the company.


Jennifer Abel


Published Nov 29, 2012   Updated Jun 2, 2021, 6:26 am CDT

The message “Free stuff to anybody who forwards this” is almost always a hoax. Remember in 2004, when every American with a gullible relative (in other words, every American) received an email falsely promising hundreds of Bill Gates’s dollars for every forward? Sadly, all we got were annoyed friends (and possibly a computer virus).

So, if nothing else, the Durex condom Twitter campaign is worth noting because it’s actually real. When anyone tweets a message with the hashtag #1share1condom, Durex will donate a condom to an AIDS-fighting charity in honor of World AIDS Day on Dec. 1.

The company—along with its partners, the MTV Staying Alive Foundation, Dance4Life, and the UK’s National AIDS Trust—says it ultimately hopes to distribute 2.5 million condoms, “the same number of people infected with HIV last year.” As of Nov. 29, according to its website, it had already donated over 920,000.

But the Durex campaign is notable for another reason: It’s a corporate-sponsored Twitter promotion that didn’t backfire horribly against the company.

Twitter marketing promotions often fail spectacularly. For example, when Disney-Pixar and Touchstone Pictures tried promoting a warm and fuzzy family flick with the hashtag #PeopleLikeUs, the only Twitterers who picked up on the trend were misanthropes with extremely un-Disney-like opinions.

A&E had the opposite problem when it tried hashtag-promoting its show Monster In-Laws; the results might have been the first time in human history that a bunch of married people looking to make snarky jokes had nothing but good things to say about their spouse’s relatives.

And don’t forget the McDonald’s #McDStories disaster, in which the Twitterati enthusiastically shared heartfelt 140-character experiences involving diabetes, obesity, throwing up, and other things fast-food companies leave out of their commercials.

In light of such history, you might worry about the #1share1condom campaign. Sex, AIDS, rubbers—all fodder for countless tasteless jokes in the past. Would Twitter trolls derail Durex?

Remarkably, no. The hashtag appears in Tweets of all languages (unsurprising, since the AIDS virus respects no national or cultural barriers), and so far, the response is extremely nice. A 10-minute search turned up no rude jokes—just tweets mentioning the condom-donation offer or sharing HIV facts and statistics.

It’s enough to make a misanthrope feel good about humanity: Some things are so important, even the Internet won’t turn them into a joke.

Photo via Island Nimbus/Flickr

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*First Published: Nov 29, 2012, 7:00 pm CST