In mid-November, Instagram and Facebook pages for what looked to be a new organization focused on sex education cropped up online. The organization, The Sexual Education Foundation, has quickly grown small but active followings on the pages (the Instagram account has over 1,400 followers). The posts, which are mostly memes or suggestions like the “No Babies 2019” pledge, have garnered roughly 150,000 impressions and over 70,000 profile visits, according to the creatives behind them. The catch? It isn’t a real foundation.
Instead, The Sexual Education Foundation is an ingenious marketing effort by two creatives—director and actress Mary Neely and actor and comedian Bill Kottkamp—to promote a new PSA-style music video, “Baby Mamma,” about safe sex reminiscent of Lil Dicky’s work for Trojan.
Adweek caught up with Neely (who has appeared in a number of commercial spots for brands like McDonald’s and Tide and created a web series about a commercial actress, Wacko Smacko) and Kottkamp (who recently starred in Netflix’s The Good Cop) to find out more about the effort and what marketers can learn from their approach. Neely directed the spot; Kottkamp wrote and stars in the video.
Adweek: Why did you want to make a PSA-style sex-ed music video?
Bill Kottkamp: For me, the visual of me teaching a room of kids about sex-ed has been in my head since I wrote Baby Momma five years ago. With Mary’s help, it was fleshed out from a concept into reality in a hilarious and artistic matter.
Mary Neely: I love Bill’s song because even though it’s silly, it ultimately has an important message: Teaching kids about different ways you can accidentally become pregnant.
Why market the video this way?
Kottkamp: While working on the set of the video I had a flash of inspiration to release it under the moniker The Sexual Education Foundation. I brought the idea up to Mary and we brainstormed a little. She pitched that we try and pair the video with a real organization. I knew that working with a real organization would restrict us artistically so we decided to forge our own foundation so we could create eye-catching and surprising content. By creating on our own we were only limited by the advertising policies on Instagram and Facebook.
Neely: I wanted to find a real organization because teaching kids proper sex education is something Bill and I are both genuinely passionate about. Yet I’m so glad we ultimately made The Sexual Education Foundation because not only have we had so much fun making all the content, we’ve also gotten to test a lot of ideas we’ve always talked about but never had the proper platform to implement. We started the page simply by making memes about how to prevent unplanned pregnancy, mainly encouraging people to wear condoms. Recurring themes have included: “You Can’t Pray a Baby Away,” “Even Raw Vegans Shouldn’t Do it Raw,” and “Sign the No Babies 2019 Pledge,” the latter of which you can actually sign up for on our website.
Still, a fake foundation seems like a strange way to market a music video.
Kottkamp: The entire theme of the video is teaching kids about sex education in a funny way, so I thought, what better way to promote it than an initiative to teach millennials about sex education in a funny way?
Neely: It’s a unique way to build up to a music video release. Cultural channels are so scattered now, there’s no focal point for content. So by making the fake account we’ve created a new version of video promotion.
What’s the response been like?
Kottkamp: The response to the page went above and beyond my wildest expectations. We’ve ranged from people thanking us for informing them about contraceptives, to others who would try to make fun of us by asking fake questions thinking they were bothering some poor employees and not two writers behind an imaginary moniker.
Neely: It’s been incredible. We’ve gotten massive engagement on polls and questions in our stories as well as floods of DMs. I honestly think that it shows how poor our country’s sexual education curriculum is. Having to answer stranger’s questions led me to learn things I, myself, have never even heard about!
How do you think people will respond when they realize this is a faux foundation all for a music video?
Kottkamp: Mainly we hope that people will click through and enjoy the music video. We also are now planning to maintain The Sexual Education Foundation as its own entity. Going into this I didn’t expect that it would impact people in such a strong way and I really want to keep that energy going forward.
Neely: Since we are keeping up the guise of The Sexual Education Foundation I’m not even sure people will realize it’s fake. We’ve set up that we’re “partnering” with social media influencers to spread our message so the music video will just seem part of that same effort.
What should marketers learn from this?
Bill: That young people respond well to content that is quickly consumed, and conversational in tone. Despite Instagram’s social ad programs constant insistence that our ads would not perform well if they contained text, the posts that worked best were often simple sayings with simple fonts.
Mary: Engaging with your audience in a friendly way (with boundaries) is key to building trust in a specific demographic. Just by talking with people in private messages, reposting funny things they say with their tag, and giving them calls to action is a low effort with a huge reward. Also, cheap stock photos go a long way.
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