People Have Sex for Pleasure. Why Aren’t We Talking About That?

By Rosemary Kamwendo, Head of Marketing, PSI South Africa

Typically, sex talks available to young people speak to their fears – of unwanted pregnancy and sexually-transmitted infections – rather than acknowledging one of the main reasons people have sex: pleasure. This is a missed opportunity.

A recent World Health Organization systematic review found substantial benefits of integrating sexual pleasure into more traditional, disease prevention-focused sexual and reproductive health programs.1 And yet, despite this promising evidence, few global health programs currently incorporate sexual pleasure approaches.

At VIYA, we take action by putting consumers and their interests first. In this case, women want to have good relationships with their partners, they want the ability to take advantage of life opportunities, and they want to have good, pleasurable sex.

Through a partnership between VIYA, PSI’s Fem Tech social business, and Meta, we launched a Facebook and Instagram-based digital media campaign in South Africa to engage users with VIYA’s sexual health and wellness resources that serve women throughout their lifecycle.

Here is what we learned:

  • Beyond contraception: Our audience wanted to go beyond contraception conversations. As such, we broadened the ad campaign content to include topics like vagina dryness and discharge, all based on what consumers were asking for.
  • Young audiences: There was a higher engagement rate among the younger audience (18-24 years) even though they only accounted for 30 percent of the total audience. This could imply that younger women are more willing to openly discuss sexual health matters, as seen from their engagement in the VIYA Direct Messaging option, while the older audiences are less inclined to share such information.
  • Creative strategy: Videos and GIFs provided higher engagement levels (5 percent) than statics (3 percent) indicating audience preference to engage with motion versus still creatives. We also noted that creatives that pushed the boundary and had some humor drove more engagement.
  • Website traffic: There was a higher click-through ratio among the older segment 25-44 years (1.3 percent) compared to the younger audience of 18-24 years (1 percent) which could probably imply that older audiences, who are perhaps more settled in their careers, are better placed to pay for data which allows them to spend more time online and go beyond the social media platform.

VIYA, PSI’s Fem Tech social business, aims to disrupt the narrative around women’s health by serving as a one-stop-shop for women and girls’ sexual and reproductive health (SRH) expressed needs – at all points throughout their lifecycle. From menstruation to menopause; masturbation to contraception: you name it, VIYA’s open to talking about it.


VIYA, in partnership with Meta, launched a two-phase Facebook-based digital media campaign in South Africa to engage users on VIYA’s platforms (chatbot; Facebook page; and website). Phase one primarily focused on contraception confidence, while phase two focused on access to sexual reproductive services.

And we went all out.

From not shying away from splashing the word “vagina” on our collateral to leaning into taboo topics, like vaginal dryness, our communication moved beyond our standard focus on pregnancy and STI prevention toward supporting women aged 18-35 already seeking SRH information online. Our campaign showed that disruptive communication can inspire positive attitudes by drawing the audience in.

Figure 1: Bold VIYA Creative

Building a Creative Strategy

  • Segmentation: To effectively communicate our message with our diverse audience, we opted to segment the audience into two age-groups – young adult women (18–24-year-olds) who are starting their sexual journeys, and 25–35-year-old women who are further along. Our messaging addressed concerns specific to their stage in life.

Figure 4:  Creative targeting 25-35 segment focused on vaginal dryness. 

Figure 3: Creative targeting 18-24 segment focused on contraception. 

  • Message Testing: To ensure our creative strategy was effectively communicating to our target audience, we implemented A/B testing. This allowed us to systematically assess and refine creative variables to determine which strategy works best with each target audience. For example, we tested the use of human faces against vector images as shown below.

Figure 5: Similar Messaging Testing with Human Face

Figure 6: Similar Messaging Testing with Vector Image

Figure 7: Facebook Carousel

Mixed Digital Approach: We used an array of approaches, from carousels to statics to GIFS, to communicate our messages and offer our audiences different ways to consume our message.

  • Built For Mobile: With the knowledge that 29.5 million of South Africans consume the internet through their mobile phone, we tailored our creatives to primarily suit mobile phones.
Measuring Impact

The campaign was a success in reaching and engaging women in South Africa with pleasure-forward and reliable sexual health and wellness communications:

  • Community growth – The VIYA Facebook page has seen a 83 percent increase in followers i.e., from 14,236 followers to 26,000 followers over the last eight months. The followers comprise mostly women aged 25-34 in urban areas like Cape Town & Pretoria.
  • Wide Reach – The campaign reached 4.5 million people with over 33 million impressions. The reach was nearly evenly spread between the younger segment of 18-24 years (51 percent) and the older segment of 25-44 years (49 percent).
  • Engagement Rate – Engagement rate per post, which is calculated by the engagement a post received divided by the reach it achieved, was 5 percent. This was significantly higher than the industry average of 0.11 percent.
  • Traffic to the VIYA website – There was a significant increase in website traffic following the social media campaigns. Traffic from the campaign (Facebook and Instagram) accounted for 80 percent of website visitors.
  • AB Tests – The results showed that our audience engaged more with creatives showing real humans as compared to the illustration.

To measure impact, our campaign utilized the Brand Lift Study (BLS) measurement tool by Meta. A BLS measures outcomes from ad campaigns by comparing self-reported knowledge, attitudes, and behaviours between Facebook users from a control group and a treatment group. The treatment group sees campaign ads as normal and the control group does not see campaign ads.

Both audiences are served the Brand Lift poll questions to assess self-reported knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors relevant to your campaign. The results of the Brand Lift study show the impact or “lift” campaign ads likely had on the treatment audience compared to the control audience.

The BLS in phase 1 focused on brand recall since we wanted to understand our audience’s ability to remember VIYA resources and understand our audience’s confidence level in choosing a contraceptive method. The results from the initial stage showed that consumer confidence in accessing contraceptives was still low among those who responded to the Facebook poll. We therefore started driving our audience to the VIYA website which detailed the different types of contraceptive options. This led to a significant upswing in website traffic, and particularly to the contraceptive page. 

The BLS in phase 2 focused on understanding if access to sexual reproductive services was a barrier to using contraceptives in South Africa.

Figure 10: Word Cloud: Visual Representation of Most Popular Conversation Topics. The larger the font size the more frequently the word appeared in conversations.

VIYA Moves Forward

VIYA has certainly disrupted conversations around sexual health. With a reach of 70 percent of target market (source Facebook Ad Manager), and a Facebook community of over 24,000 people, the dial is turning. But behavior change takes time, and a three- week campaign is just the start of a SRH and wellness revolution. The campaign (phase 1) was close to showing outcomes of increased confidence in choosing a contraception method, but the campaign was 2% shy from reaching statistical significance, which means more work can be done, including addressing multisectoral determinants and barriers to contraceptive access such as convenience and cost. With the help of digital tools and a robust infrastructure of PSI’s Social Business in 27 countries VIYA continues to expand its reach beyond South Africa to other markets and continues developing solutions to transform the way women access and experience their journey towards sexual health and wellness. PSI and VIYA will not stop until every woman, no matter where she is in her lifecycle, has reliable, trusted and accessible sexual and reproductive health, rights and wellness resources at her fingertips.

  2. Contraception coverage and methods used among women in South Africa: A national household survey”
  3. Brand Post Engagement Rate Benchmarks for Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter

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