Durex: Turning safe sex into great sex

We have taken a brand on a journey from re invention, to repurposing
to repositioning – from safe sex
to enabling great sex.

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Durex is the Hoover of the condom market. It’s synonymous with the product. But being the name of the thing that, for many, spoils sex is not a great start. 

Our task was to revive the brand and help it grow. Or to put it another way, our objective was to increase condom penetration and get people to try out the new sex toy range by changing their perception of Durex from meaning ‘safe sex’ to ‘great sex’.

A global sex survey revealed a shocking fact – more than half the population is unhappy with their sex life. If Durex could help improve matters, it would raise the brand to new heights.

Our own research showed us three main audience categories:


Relatively new to sex, they’re extremely self-conscious and looking to please their partners. They’re also often ill-prepared for and under-informed about sex. Further research showed several misconceptions getting in the way of enjoying great sex safely.

First of all, HIV was once a death sentence. Not any more – or so young people believe. They aren’t afraid of infection with HIV and STIs anymore and they’re acting accordingly. They think they’re well informed, but they know less than they think.

It’s not just about risks, though. Condom use also comes down to the moment when one of you suggests it. Young women are the gatekeepers as guys would rather have sex with a condom than no sex at all. But women hold back. They want sex with them to be the best ever for their partner, and they think a condom will kill the mood. They have no idea that men find it attractive when a woman suggests a condom. It shows confidence, and it also means sex is definitely going to happen. ‘When it’s on, it’s on.’


They’re more experienced sexually, and curious, but frustrated by a lack of access to education and available content on sex. No matter how old or how experienced you are, you’ll always have questions about sex. But who’re you going to call? Try Google, and you get porn or NHS sites. There’s not much in the middle.

Established couples

Informed on sex but want to spice things up, yet not likely to discuss it with their partner. To help everyone get to love great sex, we had to create an opportunity for lovers to talk about sex with their partners and voice their desires. We had to shake people out of their inertia and demand more satisfaction in their sex lives.

For our strategy, we developed a campaign that addressed these three key insights with work that directly linked back to the product opportunities for the brand.

Insight 1. Busting The Misconceptions Of The In-Experienced

We created a digitally focused, multi-channel advertising campaign, integrated with social media and an extension into PR activity. The idea stemmed from our revelatory research: let the girls, the gatekeepers, hear what the boys thought – for real.

We recruited men and women and put them in separate rooms, next to each other. A two way mirror allowed the women to see and hear the men, without their knowledge.

Our hero film shows the moment when the men say they want a woman who wants a condom. The women were shocked and surprised.Guys want a girl who wants a condom. It was a huge revelation, and the women left the room ready to suggest a condom – not right then, but next time they were in the heat of the moment.

We went out on YouTube and Facebook, leading with this revelation, and following with seven more short, provocative films tackling other issues such as the prevalence of HIV, the rise in STIs and the ease with which they can be caught, the risks of withdrawal, and so on.

We used PR to get the insights we’d gained from our research out to the audience, with articles supporting our films and appearances from the stars of our films. We partnered with Buzzfeed to create additional articles and videos.

Insight 2. Credible Sources Of Sex Information For All

We analysed (with Google and YouTube) our audience’s search behaviour, and identified 380 categories of questions Durex could credibly answer. Working with IBM Watson developers and MSG.AI, we developed what is now called Durex S.I. (Sexual Intelligence).

You can use it on the web, on WhatsApp, or on social media.It’s discreet, reliable and accurate. And best of all, it answers every question in a way that matches your level of experience and your previous conversations with it. A logic engine sits at the heart, intelligently learning about you every time you talk to it. 

Durex S.I. is not a one-off marketing campaign but an intelligent service that will build a meaningful and valuable relationship with its users over time. It also provides Durex with a deeper understanding of consumers, useful in every marketing activity, and builds a community of brand advocates.

Insight 3. Spicing Up The Sex Lives Of Established Couples

One thing was clear for this audience – we were going to need more than condoms. We launched a new range of sex toys, with a discreet delivery service.

We needed the reach you only get with TV, but whatever you may think about our permissive age, the nation isn’t yet deemed ready for ads about vibrating cock rings, or vibrators, waterproof or not.

The creative solution was a tech first. We advertised the sex toy ecommerce site on TV, all nice and compliant. But before it aired, we used teasers to excite people about a special app you could use to zhoosh it all up. When the ad went live, you could point your phone at the TV, and the app synchronised and played the ad’s steamier version in exact synch.

Durex was the first brand to use multi screen viewing to its full advantage with the first ever synchronized dual screen ad. The world went mad for sex toys, and all without saying a word on TV. 


1. Our misconceptions hero lm has over 2 million views so far. The revelations exposed struck a chord, and the campaign got a lot of coverage. From the Independent to the Huffington Post, we had a combined reach total of 608 million.

Condom penetration is well up. Within the first three months, the category grew by 6.2%, driven by a 16% increase in Durex condom volume sales.

LINK testing showed our campaign achieved 98% on persuasion scores, the brand’s highest ever.

2. S.I. is already a success with beta testers. The positive response means we’re ready to put it in all markets across the business. The intelligence of the application grows day by day as more and more users interact. They’re getting empowered with sexual content to t their needs. For everyone from first timers to old hands, Durex has extended its role as a brand that you can rely on.

3. We got people talking, openly and unashamedly. Visits to our e-commerce site went through the roof – up 800% in the first 6 weeks from launch – and 74% of respondents are now proud owners of sex toys (compared to 38% in 2011). We got them experimenting, trying new things, playing. Having seen the light, people are now demanding better sex.

Half of the respondents are now so at ease with sex toys they’d give one to a family member.

Ding dong – the taboo is nearly dead. Sexual satisfaction is growing by double digits every year. We are proud to have extended the Durex brand from just a safe sex brand to a great sex brand. 

Havas London

Havas London is Havas UK's flagship creative agency. Our mission is to make a meaningful difference to the brands, the businesses and the lives of the people we work with. We are committed to building a diverse culture where everybody feels they belong, can be themselves, thrive and grow.