‘Gimmicky’ sex health plan is a costly failure

A £250,000 Government drive to promote ‘safe sex’ has been branded “gimmicky”, a failure, and a waste of taxpayers’ money.

The “Want respect? Use a condom” campaign included a specially-made drama series called “Thmbnls”, which was accessed via mobile phone.

The scheme only managed to attract 5,576 mobile phone users, despite costing a quarter of a million pounds to produce.

Set against the cost of producing the free downloadable series, it worked out at around £45 per subscriber.

Official figures, obtained using a Freedom of Information request, recorded the number of sign-ups for the service in its first four months.

The Government said the campaign was a success and the number of subscribers had exceeded their initial targets.

But Susie Squire from the Taxpayers’ Alliance said: “Too often the Government engages with gimmicky marketing and gimmicky advertising because they think they are going to reach a new audience.

“I think when it comes to spending taxpayers’ money, particularly on healthcare issues, they should be going for the most effective approach, not the most fashionable.”

The news comes as NHS Leicester City released a ‘hard-hitting’ internet teen drama series, Kicks, yesterday as part of its campaign to reduce teen pregnancies.

A spokeswoman for NHS Leicester City, Liz Rodrigo, said: “The storyline shows the characters making different choices about sex.”

The six-part drama follows their recent ‘Teenage Kicks’ online video depicting graphic scenes of a schoolgirl giving birth on a playing field whilst a jeering crowd of pupils look on.

The video, targeted at 15-17 year olds, was initially banned by YouTube just 24 hours after being posted.

It has been viewed over two million times via its website www.hey-babe.co.uk and other sites since it launched a few weeks ago.

Despite spending more than £280 million on sex education and contraception in the last ten years, the Government is set to fall desperately short of its 1998 target of halving teen conceptions by 2010.

The UK now has the highest pregnancy rate among under-18s in Europe and it was recently revealed that over half opt for an abortion.

The broadcasting watchdog is currently consulting on plans to allow ads for condoms before the 9pm watershed and for abortion services to start advertising on television and radio.

The Government has become Britain’s biggest spender on advertising with a budget of £400 million a year.

It is estimated that the public is bombarded with 10,000 state-sponsored messages everyday, via radio, TV, magazines, newspapers, billboards and the internet.

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