ucef hanjani for the san francisco aids foundation initiative, NXCH. NXCH (the needle exchange program) worked to keep street kids away from AIDS and various other diseases associated to intravenous drug-use by providing counseling, advice and, as a last resort, free, clean needles to avoid infection until the time when the kids can kick their habit. the ads needed to drive traffic to the shelters and the free help-line but the work proved to be a tricky endeavor. although needle exchange is legal we had to ensure we were not reaching to the wrong audience or being perceived as a program giving encouragement for non-users.
we couldn't simply state what the communication was for and, to add to the challenge, we had a select and elusive audience to reach. through on-site experience and one-on-one interviews we learned that our audience was bright, yet cynical. they hated advertising and saw organizations in general as their enemy. any message had to be in their language but without dictating to them what to do. rather, suggestions had the greatest chance of success and any effort had to be honest and advisory. but there was yet another problem; how do you reach someone with no magazine subscriptions, no television, no computer, even no home?
since the street was their home, bus shelters and street postings rated high on our list. the idea was to shoot everyday scenes of their "homes", the city streets, and change the street signs to convey a message "from SF youth needle exchange." the viewer had to work out the message, not unlike coded text used in graffiti. this, we hoped, would increase involvement when piecing the message together... the campaign was a true success leading to expansion of the phone lines and the supplies handed out.