An advert issued by NHS Walsall which asked men if they would give up their gaming habit to have a baby has been slammed on social media.
The sexual health service campaign told men to “bware da baby trap - use a condom”. The advert included images of a gaming console and a baby’s dummy, asking: “Would you give up this?... For this?”
The advertising campaign ran over the school summer holiday period and while its aim is to signpost young people to services where they can access free contraception, the delivery has proved controversial.
Actor Nicola Thorp tweeted a photo of the poster and wrote: “What the hell were they thinking? Can’t young men be treated with respect and decent information? Sexual health education is SO important... but this is not the one.”
The advert turned out to be problematic for a few reasons.
Twitter user @MannyGrillo said: “Is this suggesting all young women want is to trick young men into pregnancy? Blimey.”
While @MatthewRose86 added: “Anyone else think this ad is sexist?”
A separate poster by the service asked young women if they would give up high heels and lipstick for a baby. Kirstie Jones, 29, spotted it on a bus in the West Midlands and called it out.
The social media manager from Stourbridge told The Mirror: “It suggests that if you accidentally become pregnant you have to leave the lipsticks and heels behind. I couldn’t believe it, it’s so irresponsible.”
Both posters were removed on 2 September when the campaign ended. Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust, which devised the campaign, said the campaign was informed by feedback from young people and the images had been selected because teenagers had told them what was important to them.
Nicola Wenlock, divisional director of Midwifery, Gynaecology and Sexual Health for Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust, said the team worked hard to understand the teenage pregnancy audience to make sure that the communication was relevant, effective and focused.
“We apologise if this particular advertisement has raised a concern, the intent was to raise awareness of emergency contraception and advice available for those in this age group who wish to avoid unwanted pregnancies,” she said in a statement. “The campaign has played an important role in tackling teenage pregnancy and poor sexual health in our local area which has been reducing steadily year on year.”
The conception rate in 1998 was 67.2 per 1,000 teenagers. While in 2016 this rate had more than halved to 30.
She continued: “We will continue to work closely with all audiences to ensure we offer the best possible services for them and will continue to review all materials closely for future campaigns.”