Pilot interventions to increase the number of 18-24 year-olds carrying condoms: Evaluation research
Summary of findings
Condom user typologies
The research identified three broad typologies in terms of attitude to and behaviour with condoms:
- Condom advocates
- Condom agnostics
- Condom avoiders
Each pose their own challenges, with ‘avoiders’ being the hardest to tackle as they have to be convinced of reasons for usage as well as to carry. For ‘agnostics’ and ‘advocates’ the challenge is to address the deep-seated concerns about continual condom-carrying, as well as reinforcing reasons for usage
Those who carried condoms tended to fall into three categories
- Those who were intending to pull
- Those who thought it was a sensible precaution to carry in case they did pull
- Those who were carrying ‘by accident’ (i.e. they had a condom in their wallet/bag habitually, but they had not taken it out by design)
Key issues relating to carrying condoms were:
- Lack of expectation of use
- Carrying condoms is sexually loaded and the perception of someone who is ‘looking for sex’ is often very negative
- Getting a condom at the last minute is seen as easy in theory, but in reality it was often not
- Even if one party did have a condom, usage was not guaranteed as the complexity of the mating game would often get in the way
Overall reactions to summer pilot initiative
- The overall reaction to the pilot ideas was positive.
- In Liverpool there was evidence of growing awareness of some elements of the campaign (by stage 2) and some uptake in terms of participation in events or promotions – but also suggestions that real change of usage levels would take longer than a month
- The research noted increases in carrying in Liverpool by stage 2 (up from 18 per cent to 28 per cent) and shifts in positive attitudes to condoms, which suggest a real potential for longer term change and the uplift appeared to be sustained in stage 3 (carrying remaining at 26%). Levels remained constant in the Durham control area during this period
- However the image barriers associated with carrying condoms, particularly for women, were deeply entrenched and the research showed the need for sustained activity to start changing these views
- Partners were generally supportive of the campaign objectives and ideas and were happy to be involved
Campaign theme and branding
- There was little sense of campaign theme across the elements of the promotion and although ‘Got it covered’ as a theme and logo was seen as grown up and could be liked, it was not universally clear or particularly engaging. The campaign elements could benefit from clearer and more widespread promotion and more integration; however there was no real need for any further government branding
- The campaign would benefit from working alongside messages reinforcing reasons for using condoms, as it was seen very much as tackling carrying condoms and although the audience recognised this may help stimulate usage, simple carry would not guarantee usage
Key themes on idea development
- Picking up a free condom, privately, was liked and asking for a condom was felt to be embarrassing
- The idea of handing out free condoms in the street or in a club or bar was engaging, although it can feel scattergun. If the condom was bundled alongside a non-sexual gift this increased acceptability. Later in the evening, when drink has flowed, being given a condom was often acceptable, so long as the recipient did not feel specifically targeted
- Condoms packaged in a fun and funky ‘covetable’ way was interesting for ‘on the night supply’. If the condom was disguised it made it easier for females to pick up. Condoms need to be repackaged to give them legitimacy, whilst making the content not obvious
- Having free condoms that you can pick up, which were integrated with something of value for a night out (particularly something not directly sexual, like mints or taxi numbers) was a strong idea
Reactions to specific ideas
- The strongest ideas in the sample fitted in with a night out, either practically (they were useful) or tonally (they were fun)
- The idea of integrating mints and a condom in small neat packaging that could be used on an ongoing basis was very strong, as it provided an item that was useful on a night out, with a way of carrying a condom discreetly
- The pull initiatives were much more complex given the current reticence to publicly displaying condoms. These would need to be done regularly and become more widespread to become acceptable, particularly daytime promotions
- The idea of free discounted entry to clubs and queue-jumping were strongest, although there was some nervousness as to whether this would be honored and to how you may be perceived showing the condom. Clubs and bars were interested, although some were keener than others and logistics would need to be thought through.
Conclusions and recommendations
- While the time period was short and it would be unrealistic to expect major change in attitude or behaviour, all the indicators of change, including level of carry, moved positively in Liverpool, while there was no change in Durham
- Qualitative feedback and reaction in the quantitative interviews showed that the promotion ideas were supported and seen as a good thing, with some potential to encourage thought about condoms as well as uptake
- It was clear there was a ‘going out kit’ for both sexes (including keys, cash, lipstick, etc.) and finding ways of integrating condoms into the ‘Essential Kit’ would have real long term benefits
- Another approach, of packaging condoms in a fun and funky ‘covetable’ way also has potential for ‘on the night supply’. Packaging that allows the condom to be disguised in a positive way allows for discreet carry, which is particularly important for women. Although it does not help raise the public profile of condoms, the more fun packaging helps break the ice and has the potential to allow women to feel better about being seen with condoms (and have a laugh and a joke about them)
- Dispensers, particularly in toilets, need to be clear about signalling what they are and that their contents are free. Dispensers also need to reassure that the condoms within them are safe to use and have not been tampered with
- Evidence from the 'avoiders' and 'agnostics' shows it is also important to continue raising the issue of usage and reasons for usage, to help counter slip-ups and reinforce the desire for condom use among partners of 'avoiders'
To explore, through test activity in a pilot location, what interventions could increase the level of condom carrying amongst 18- to 24-year-olds. The strategy for the test is based on optimising carrying of condoms through:
- Demonstrating that carrying a condom has currency/benefits
- Distributing condoms for free
The overall objectives of this research were to demonstrate:
- Whether or not the pilot has resulted in an increase in the number of people carrying condoms (actual not claimed)
- If so, which elements have driven this
More specifically, the research focused on how the pilot has affected behaviour and attitudes, which elements of the campaign have been most successful, and what learnings can be made for future work.
Recent tracking has shown some young people claim not to have used a condom because they did not have one. The key insight from this is that increased propensity to carry should result in increased usage and therefore should be the key focus of activity.
Based on this insight, the following two-pronged strategy has been developed in order to optimise ‘carry’:
- PULL – Activities focused on rewarding ‘carrying’ by offering benefits that are worth paying for - for example this might be a free makeover when you show a condom
- PUSH – Activities focused on providing access to condoms at the most appropriate times (i.e. close to point of potential use) by simple distribution of free condoms - for example giving out free condoms with water as people exit clubs and/or festivals
Research to evaluate the impact of a pilot introduced to increase the level of condom carrying amongst 18– to 24-year-olds
18 to 35 years
Qualitative and quantitative research conducted at three stages in Liverpool: • The first stage (qualitative and quantitative) was designed to quantify levels of condom-carrying and understand attitudes to condom-carrying before the pilot activities were launched • The second stage (qualitative and quantitative) was held during August Bank holiday weekend towards the end of the pilot when the activity peaked and was designed to explore the potential impact of the activities on the level of carrying if this activity was to continue • The third stage (quantitative) was carried out in Liverpool approximately six weeks after the pilot had finished evaluating ‘decay’ (i.e. recollection of the campaign and longer term impact on condom-carrying) Two stages of qualitative and quantitative research was also conducted in Durham before and after the campaign was run in Liverpool to act as a control setting (a location where there was no campaign) Eleven further interviews were carried out with Liverpool ‘partners’, i.e. owners or managers of businesses that took part in the pilot and distributed condoms. These were a mix of face-to-face and telephone interviews.
Data collection methodology
Quantitative sample: 1,011 respondents were interviewed via a computer based survey administered in central locations. Respondents were mainly recruited during Friday and Saturday evening with some taking part in the research on Saturday mornings after a night out. They were recruited off the street while they were out on (or in a few cases while they were returning from) a night out. All were screened to ensure they took part in ‘risky behaviour’ and in the post stages that they had been in the city during the summer period.
Qualitative sample: 120 respondents interviewed using a Consumer Clinic technique whereby several moderators work simultaneously in a central venue interviewing both pre-recruited respondents and respondents recruited in situ. Respondents were able to present for interview either on their own or in small friendship groups (e.g. paired depths or triads). Each interview lasted approximately 30 to 45 minutes. Timing-wise, respondents were either interviewed at the beginning of a night out or the morning after.
Both the qualitative and quantitative samples were weighted towards those aged under 25 (80 per cent) and to C2DE respondents. They were also weighted such that more people took part in the test location of Liverpool than the control location of Durham, and more in Wave 2 (when the pilot was live) than pre-pilot in Wave 1.
Summer - Autumn 2009