Calling all condom designers

May 17, 2012 

The New York City contest had 600 entries. Here are the finalists, with the winner at bottom right.

There are a million free condoms in the naked city, and the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health sees a branding opportunity in that.

In an effort to help curb sexually transmitted diseases, the department’s Division of HIV and STD Programs this month will announce a contest to design an official L.A. condom wrapper to help brand the free prophylactics the county distributes to local businesses, social services and healthcare providers. Ads will invite county residents to come up with “L.A.’s Next Sex Symbol.”

“Our tagline is going to be ‘Show Me Your Package’,” says Project Manager True Ann Beck.

The lighthearted derby is part of a serious push in Los Angeles County to consolidate public health outreach on sexually transmitted diseases. An estimated 2,000 new HIV infections occur annually in L.A. County.  Last year, the department reported more than 47,500 new cases of chlamydia, more than 9,500 new cases of gonorrhea and nearly 1,800 new cases of syphilis.

Each year, grant money is distributed by the county to local health care providers to purchase and distribute free condoms, which help prevent sexually transmitted diseases. (About 250,000 have been handed out so far this year, at a wholesale price of about six cents apiece, Beck says.) The contest is a small part of a larger centralization of STD prevention that has already merged three county programs.

The design contest, which will run from May 21 to June 17, will be facilitated by KCBS Marketing with help from the county’s condom wholesaler, Boston-based One Condoms, Beck says. Entrants must be Los Angeles County residents over the age of 18.

Rules will be posted on the contest web site (LASexSymbol.com), but generally, entries cannot be trademarked, copyrighted or sexually explicit. The winner and nine runners-up will receive prizes and gift cards, plus bragging rights to a package design that will be distributed countywide and featured in future condom promotions.  All ten will be produced and distributed.

“We want to circulate more than one design so people can collect them all,” Beck says, adding that the initial plan is “to start with a million and one condoms.”

Updated 6/14/12: Learn more about the contest at the Downtown L.A. Art Walk tonight. Check out the 40-foot RV parked at 24 Main Street.

Public health officials note that contests are only one way among many to raise awareness and improve Southern California’s health. Still, New York’s 2010 contest attracted nearly 600 entries, persuaded New Yorkers to cast more than 15,000 online ballots and conferred momentary celebrity on the graphic artist who submitted the winning wrapper design—a graphic representation of a high-tech power button.

Beck says the hope is that the entries will be so smart and lively that the public won’t think of the free condoms as a government program.

“It’s going to be very light and sexy and fun. We’ll probably get all sorts of comments, but the point is to get people talking, and to get them to practice safer sex,” she says.

Posted 5/17/12

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