Campaign: World AIDS Day makes HIV everyone's issue - Voluntary Sector Comms

Campaign: World AIDS Day 2004

Client: National AIDS Trust

PR team: In-house/Edelman

Timescale: September-December 2004

Budget: Under £100,000

World AIDS Day falls on 1 December each year. In 2004, the National AIDS Trust decided to use the occasion to tackle the perception held by some that AIDS is merely a problem for developing countries and does not affect people in the UK. It drafted in Edelman to come up with a World AIDS Day campaign that would highlight the thousands of people diagnosed with HIV and AIDS in the UK every year.


To persuade organisations and individuals to develop the concept of a 'virtual red ribbon'. To drive traffic to the World AIDS Day website and to encourage individuals to upload personal stories onto the site.

Strategy and Plan

Edelman asked companies and individuals to attach virtual red ribbons to their websites, blogs and email signatures. In a bid to draw attention to the fact that 7,000 new cases of HIV were diagnosed in the UK in 2003, a target of 7,000 virtual red ribbon websites was set. People were invited to submit personal stories online to inspire others.

The trust led on the media front, targeting national newspapers, charity titles and marketing, new media and online press. The team emphasised that HIV is an issue for everyone and highlighted the virtual red ribbon campaign as an easy way for people to make a difference. The trust's celebrity contacts were used to help raise awareness.

The target audience was broad in order to spread the message as widely as possible, although there was a focus on young people. Large companies were targeted, along with universities, local authorities and other high-profile organisations. The web was scanned to identify websites that were already talking about HIV and AIDS.

Initially, these organisations were contacted by phone and email but as the campaign got going, it grew virally and a success in one sector quickly led to more in the same area.

The team's biggest challenge was persuading companies that already had social responsibility plans for the year that they could support the campaign without undermining other organisations to which they had committed.

Measurement and Evaluation

A range of organisations placed the virtual red ribbon on their websites, including Orange, British Airways, STA Travel, Channel 4, Oxfam and AOL. Numerous celebrities also submitted personal stories, including Kofi Annan, Elton John, Ken Livingstone, Emma Thompson and Mario Testino.

Media coverage was generated in several national broadsheets, including The Guardian and The Independent. Specialist publications that covered the story included The Scotsman, Boyz magazine and Public Health News. Broad radio coverage was also secured.


The virtual red ribbon was placed on 17,132 websites. Since the launch in October 2004 there have been almost two million visitors to the World AIDS Day site, including almost 350,000 in the 24 hours around the day. In addition, more than 170 personal stories have been uploaded to the site.

STA Travel online marketing manager Anna Bacon describes her decision to place the virtual red ribbon on her company's website as 'easy'. 'The PR people were not pushy, they just said "if you want to do this, great, here's how",' she says.

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