Live and LoveAustralia’s budding film-makers have found an unexpected muse in the Herpes simplex virus (HSV) thanks to the Live & Love Short Film Competition, coordinated by multi award-winning healthcare PR agency VIVA! Communications. The competition wrapped up on the eve of National Herpes Awareness Day (October 19, 2010) with a red carpet event at Soho Bar, Sydney.

The campaign, launched on August 1, 2010, for the Australian Herpes Management Forum (AHMF) and Novartis Australia, invited film buffs to submit 30-second flicks to debunk the myths associated with HSV. It was the first time either organisation had employed user-generated content (UGC) to spread the HSV message. 

According to Kirsten Bruce, principal of VIVA! Communications, it’s been exciting to explore the potential of UGC in this public health awareness campaign.

“The Live & Love campaign has very successfully encouraged open discussion about herpes among the community and our target media – healthcare, student, film, pop culture and gay media.

“The number and calibre of responses was far beyond what we anticipated and by tapping into the creative talents of Australia’s very gifted film makers, we have stimulated conversation about HSV more than we could have hoped,” said Ms Bruce.

In total, the competition received 117 film submissions and more than 20,000 unique visits to the Live & Love site

VIVA!, the AHMF and Novartis are also  thrilled to have attracted a few famous faces to the competition with judges’ finalists including films by Josh Lawson (Sea Patrol, The Librarians, Thank God You’re Here) and Katie May Johnson (2010 Tropfest “Women in Film” Winner), as well as a submission starring Home and Away’s Christian Clark and Samantha Tolj.

However, the $10,000 “Judges’ Choice” prize was awarded to Sydney film students Jessica Flood and Roshelle Fong for their Halloween-themed film Ah! Real Herpes.

The official judging panel consisted of Anthony MacFarlane and Jarod Green, co-creators of the YouTube sensation ‘Beached Az’; sexual health experts; and 2009 Tropfest Winner Genevieve Clay.

The campaign was complemented by Facebook and Twitter activities, which have helped to generate excitement and drive consumers to the Live & Love site to view the films and vote for their favourites.

The AHMF is now exploring the possibility of using some of the submissions as TV Community Service Announcements (CSAs) to further destigmatise HSV.