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Aids: Transforming Ignorance

Rory Sutherland explores how the 1987 AIDS campaign 'Don't Die of Ignorance' transformed social attitudes and potentially saved the lives of tens of thousands of people.

Rory Sutherland explores how the 1987 AIDS campaign "Don't Die Of Ignorance" transformed social attitudes and potentially saved the lives of tens of thousands of people.

In 1987, as the HIV/AIDS epidemic began to spread, Conservative Health Secretary Norman Fowler instigated perhaps the most profoundly influential healthcare campaigns in British history. Artfully dodging the socially conservative wing of his party (some of whom advocated interning HIV sufferers), a maelstrom of fear and misinformation in the press, and the dubious gaze of Margaret Thatcher, he teamed up with adman Sammy Harari to create a film that would shake people out of their ignorance, and educate them purely with the facts.

Thirty years on, Lord Fowler, Sammy Harari and HIV/AIDS activist and former Chief Executive of the Terrence Higgins Trust, Sir Nick Partridge, look back on the campaign - telling the story of how politics, medicine and creativity came together to create one of the most memorable and powerful campaigns of our time.

Producer: Steven Rajam


Why do certain marketing campaigns - from Nike's "Just Do It" to the MND Ice Bucket Challenge - cast such a spell over us? Rory Sutherland explores the story - and the psychology - behind ten of the most influential campaigns in history - with first-hand accounts from the creative minds that conceived them, and contributions from the worlds of evolutionary biology, behavioural psychology, socio-economics and anthropology.

Marketing. It's come to be one of the most misunderstood - and maligned - disciplines of our age: perceived variously as the Emperor's New Clothes, an emblem of the ills of capitalism, a shadowy dark art designed to steal away our hard-earned money and make us do (or buy, or vote for) things we don't want.

Yet marketing is undeniably a key part of contemporary culture. It's a science that's fundamentally about human behaviour - marketers, to some extent, understand us better than we know ourselves - and in the most successful campaigns we find our deepest emotions and urges, from altruism to shame, hope to bravado, systematically tapped into and drawn upon.

But what are these primal behaviours that the best campaigns evoke in us - and how do they harness them? Is marketing purely about commercial gain or can it underpin real common good and societal progress? And does the discipline manipulate our subconscious instincts and emotions - or simply hold a mirror to them?

Over ten episodes, senior advertising creative and Spectator writer Rory Sutherland unravels the story of some of the most powerful, brilliant and influential campaigns of our age. Set alongside personal testimonies from the brilliant minds that created them, we'll hear from a host of experts - from biologists to philosophers, novelists to economists - about how these campaigns got under our skin and proved to be so influential.

Contributors include: writer and former copywriter Fay Weldon; social behaviourist and expert on altruism Nicola Raihani; Alexander Nix, CEO of big data analysts Cambridge Analytica; philosopher Andy Martin; writer on Islamic issues and advisor to the world's first Islamic branding consultancy, Shelina Janmohamed; and evolutionary psychologist Geoffrey Miller.

Available now

15 minutes