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Joel A. Berger Award

10/31/2009 2:00 AM Eastern

GYT: Get Yourself Tested — MTV

Each year, under-30-year-olds account for a larger share of new HIV infections than any other age group in the United States. One in five Americans living with the virus doesn't know they are infected. Other STDs, such as chlamydia and gonorrhea, are even more common — with one in two sexually active Americans being infected by age 25, and most not knowing it.

To address this public-health crisis, MTV and The Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) — as part of their boundary-shattering It's Your (Sex) Life campaign — recently joined with Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to launch GYT (Get Yourself Tested). Pegged to National STD Awareness Month (April '09), the campaign was purpose-built to inspire a critical mass of young people to be tested for STDs, including HIV.

Recognizing the often uncomfortable nature of talking about STD and HIV/AIDS testing, GYT was introduced via a guerrilla-style viral marketing campaign — under the banner of “WTF is GYT?” — to pique the interest of America's youth and begin inserting the acronym into the culture. MTV interns bombarded NBC's Today show wearing GYT shirts, hip-hop artist Soulja Boy tweeted “WTF is GYT?” to his 170,000 followers, and unmarked videos with celebrities like Perez Hilton and Big Boi of Outkast guessing the meaning of GYT were “planted” on key social-networking sites. Immediately, young people began uploading videos to YouTube speculating what GYT might mean. The strategy has helped drive over half a million views of MTV's GYT-related videos and elicited 3,000-plus comments. Further, when the campaign launched, GYT was one of the most-searched terms on Google, one of the most discussed videos on YouTube and one of the most tweeted terms on Twitter.

GYT kicked off on-air April 1, during the world premiere of MTV Films' Pedro, a movie based on the remarkable life of The Real World's Pedro Zamora — the first-ever openly gay, HIV-positive television personality. This set in motion a month-long push where GYT engaged its target audience wherever they were: on MTV, MTV.com, social-networking sites, pop-culture blogs, mobile devices, at school and in nearly 880 PPFA clinics nationwide.

All touch points drove to the campaign's informational resources — to learn more about STDs and find local testing centers, via mobile phone or Web. Since launch, over 50,000 people have found local testing resources by texting their ZIP code to GYT09 or entering their ZIP code on the campaign Web site. The site, www.gyt09.org, has already reached 600,000 with information on HIV/AIDS, STD prevention and testing.

PPFA and the CDC will soon share more on how GYT helped increase youth STD testing this year. However, a sampling of 10 representative Planned Parenthood affiliates from around the country showed that when comparing April 2009 to April 2008, under 25-year-old STD client testing increased 44% for men and 21% for women. MTV, KFF, PPFA and CDC plan to bring GYT back bigger and better in 2010.

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