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Gay/Lesbian health awareness - Healthy Penis/Stop the Sores

Company: Los Angeles County Department of Health Services/AIDS Healthcare Foundation
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Brand: Gay/Lesbian health awareness
Ad Title: Healthy Penis/Stop the Sores
Business Category: Health Organizations
Media Outlets: Television
Country: United States
Region: North America, US Regional
Agency: Better World Advertising
Year: 2004
Target: Gays & Mainstream
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"Phil the Sore" is a malicious cartoon character and live-action costume representing a syphilis sore.

There are two versions, both in cartoon format first. In version one, Phil stands with two men represented by cartoons of penises as people, with the testicles as feet. (The bar has other penis-people in the back, around a "stripping" penis which, ironically, is the only one wearing anything below the "waist" -- a thong.)

In version two, which is slightly less explicit, Phil stands at the feet of two men who meet, shirtless, at a bar.

In both versions, the announcer says, "Last night, Tom went home with Dick." (The name can hardly be a coincidence.)

The men part the next day, the commercial turns to live action from animation. and the screen reads, "Reality Hits." (Version one has two people in stuffed penis costumes, the other uses live people.) "Really great night," says the visiting man as he leaves (faces are still not shown, since the camera is at knee level), and his host, in an unclosed bath robe, replies, "Let's do it again sometime."

Phil the Sore, who is dark red with white sneakers (and coincidentally looks like a cousin of the California Raisins campaign), then shouts to his buddies nearby in a moving truck, "Hey, we're in!" The sores then proceed to unload a bunch of boxes marked "brain damage," "rash," "HIV pusher," "hair loss," "blindness" -- all potential results of having syphilis -- as the roll them in on a cart. (In the penis-people version, one humorously and innocuously waters the lawn in the background with a hose.)

One of the sores says in redneck accent, "I'm gonna like it here!"

Then a newspaper is thrown onto the sidewalk of the man. He picks it up and the front page reads, "Syphilis Spreading: Gay Men Get Tested." Although the man looks like he's reading an inside story instead of the cover, he says, "Wow I've got to get a syphilis test." The frustrated Phil looks up at him and complains in a New York accent, "But I just got here!"

Funded by the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services (DHS) and developed and implemented by AHF, in collaboration with five other community agencies, the “Stop the Sores” campaign was originally launched in June 2002.

This commercial with penis-people (known as "Healthy Penis") aired in San Francisco, while the one without penises ("Stop the Sores") was rejected by local LA television stations but aired on local cable.

HIV Plus reported that KCBS-TV spokesman Mike Nelson, troubled the ad was light-hearted about syphilis, denied the station rejected it as inappropriate due to fears of recent Federal Communications Commission actions scrutinizing television content. "We consider the prevention of to be a serious matter. It's an issue we have addressed and will continue to recognize through fair, accurate, and balanced news reporting, as well as broadcasting ."

Of four other affiliates -- NBC, FOX, UPN, and WB -- two said they would consider running the PSA between 11:30 p.m. and 5 a.m. But so few people would see the public service announcement that health officials rejected the offer. KNBC-TV rejected airing it during the primetime broadcast of the gay-inclusive sitcom "Will and Grace," but offered to run the PSA after midnight.

Several cable stations broadcast the commercial locally on Adelphia and Comcast cable, including Bravo’s "Queer Eye" and CNN news, potentially reaching nearly 150,000 households, the health agencies reported.

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