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Joe Public rallies a Twitter army for Aids, wins international Bees Award

Posted: May 1, 2012

Joe Public has won a highly coveted international social media Bees Award in the category Best Use of a Micro-Blogging Platform for its stand-out Brother's for Life campaign funded by USAid; this despite facing stiff competition from a number of international agencies.

These included entries such as the awe inspiring Nike Black Mamba campaign, directed by Robert Rodriguez, which featured Kobe Bryant, Bruce Willis and Kanye West, by agency R/GA that was recently voted digital agency of the decade.

Joe Public's creative director Xolisa Dyeshana says the local agency's performance alongside this illustrious company positions it firmly within the social media global best practice space. He explains that the key strength of the powerful Twitter-based campaign was its ability to harnesses the collective power of Twitter for World Aids Day 2011. 

"The primary goal of the campaign was to create an impact, with a limited budget." The campaign centred on the insight that one thousand South Africans die of Aids-related diseases every day. Unfortunately, the biggest challenge remains that South Africa is blighted by Aids fatigue as a result of endless HIV messaging. 

"Our aim was to start a conversation with people and we determined that the best way to do this was to use social media - specifically Twitter," explains Xolisa, who set about doing just that with fellow creatives: Charlotte Marriner, Monique Kaplan and Gawie Joubert.

The campaign sprang to life at 12 o'clock midnight on the 30th of November when one thousand Twitter accounts were created simultaneously; numbered HIV+0001 to HIV+1000 respectively. From midnight on the 1st of December the Twitter accounts tweeted hourly for the next twenty-four hours. 

Each tweet was signed off with the hashtag #HIVarmy so the Twitter community could follow the campaign. The messages themselves were all the same, presenting a united voice from the perspective of an HIV positive sufferer, urging others not to make the same mistakes he did. 

At midnight, each and every one of the accounts was 'killed' with the avatars changing to read, 'deceased', demonstrating the sheer, faceless number of people losing the battle to HIV. The final tweet simply read, "One thousand South Africans die of Aids every day. They don't have to. Support Brothers for Life and help us turn this around. #HIVarmy".

Xolisa reveals that the results of this approach were nothing short of mind blowing. "Over twenty-four hours there was a massive take up of the #HIVarmy hashtag, as fellow tweeters not only retweeted the messages, but also attached their own sentiments to our cause. This was followed by the rebroadcasting of the HIV army tweets by celebrities and radio personalities alike.

"We trended in Jo'burg, Durban, Cape Town and then the whole of South Africa. We were trending globally by 11am and continued to do so for the next twelve hours. Essentially, we set up a global discourse without spending a single cent." 

Looking at why the campaign stood out amidst all the competition points to the fact that at its heart it is an incredibly simple idea. "This has never been done before, something that is key in an industry tired of the 'same old, same old'. This idea proved that even with limited cash you don't have to compromise creatively," he says.