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First Condom Ad to Be Shown on British TV

July 31, 1987

LONDON (AP) _ Britain’s first television commercial for condoms is a romantic vignette showing a young couple separated by a fence that represents modern barriers to a safe sexual relationship.

The ad is to make its broadcast debut Saturday night.

No condoms are shown during the discreet 40-second commerical promoting Durex brand condoms, and no reference is made to the product until a brief pitch is flashed on the screen in the final seconds.

Mike Broadbridge, a general marketing manager for LRC Products Inc., which makes Durex, said the commercial tries to promote condoms as both birth control and a means of protection against sexually transmitted diseases such as AIDS.

AIDS, or acquired immune deficiency syndrome, is a fatal disease that attacks the body’s immune system, leaving it prey to cancer, pnuemonia and other diseases. The AIDS virus is spread by sexual contact or exposure to AIDS-contaminated blood.

″Using condoms is now the only precaution short of abstinence that most people can take,″ he said.

The Independent Broadcasting Authority, which regulates independent broadcasters in Britain, announced earlier this month it would lift its ban on advertising of specific birth control products Saturday as part of a campaign to reduce the spread of AIDS.

To date, 870 cases of AIDS have been diagnosed in Britain and 490 of the people afflicted have died.

The broadcasting authority has drafted rules that require the commercials to be in good taste and to not promote promiscuity. The ads cannot show condoms, only their packages. In an effort to keep children from seeing them, the commercials cannot be shown on television until after 9 p.m. nor broadcast on radio between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m.

The Family Planning Association said those restrictions could blunt the effectiveness of the commercials.

Spokeswoman Toni Bellfield said they would like the commercials to be shown before 9 p.m. when more young people are watching television.

″We would also like to see the condom being shown and ideally we’d like shown how to put it on,″ she said. ″One of the major problems with condoms is they are not used correctly.″

The National Council For Christian Standards in Society opposes the ads. Margaret Rymer, a member of the council’s executive committee, said, ″I think it could encourage promiscuity.″ The council is a private citizens’ group that campaigns on moral issues.

The Durex commercial opens with a couple walking on either side of a wire mesh fence, occasionally pausing to gaze longingly at each other. Discarded newspapers on the rain soaked pavement show headlines referring to AIDS, other sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancies.

The sun is setting, and around the couple swirl the strains of ″The Power of Love″ sung by Frankie Goes to Hollywood.

The commercial ends when the couple embrace at the end of the fence and ″Together you’re safer with Durex,″ flashes across the TV screen.

Broadbridge said the fence represents the modern barriers to a satisfying sexual relationship, including the sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancies.

Broadbridge said his company viewed condom commercials shown in other countries, including one broadcast in the United States in which a young man receives condoms in the mail from his father, along with a letter describing them as a gift of love and concern. But he said young people and parents surveyed in Britain didn’t believe such understanding parents existed.

The Durex commercial will be shown on television and in movie theaters. Broadbridge said a radio commercial may follow later.

A spokeswoman for the broadcasting authority said it has approved the script for a commercial promoting a condom made by another company that it would not identify.

Condoms in Britain are available free from family planning clinics.

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