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Durex... for challenging the norms: The Drum editorial team’s best of 2020

It’s that time again, when we look back at the agencies, the brands, the organizations, movements and trends that have shaped the past year. In 2020 – a year so many of us would like to forget – our industry of problem solvers proved time and again that they have what it takes to muck in, help out, ask questions, shape cultures and change the world. It is them that we celebrate in our New Year Honors.

2020 was a big year for leading condom brand Durex as it positioned itself as an activist against a variety of sexual taboos and stigmas.

Previously a mainstay of cheesy TV ads, inappropriate billboards and celebrity tie-ups (does anyone else remember the JLS condoms of the 00s?), the 91-year-old business overhauled its brand at the start of the year. The aim? To showcase the positive reality of modern-day sex and called for a ‘new normal’ – long before that phrase found its way into popular discourse.

Since then, all its global marketing activity has been conducted with Havas through a prism of ‘positive reality’ that pushes thought-provoking messages and imagery designed to spark conversations around sex and sexuality.

The new approach followed the findings of Durex’s own 2017 Global Sex Survey, which explored attitudes towards intercourse. The main takeaway was that while the exponential growth of the internet has brought positives (including openness, discussion, exploration and access), its consequences (such as misconnection, myths, lack of education and confusion) have been substantial.

As countries prepared to ease lockdown restrictions in the late summer, Durex reminded people that the old ‘normal’ wasn't good enough when it came to sex and taboos and in July it launched a TV spot promoting safe sex.

With reference to ‘rubbish excuses’ from men for not wearing a condom and ‘shaming women for even carrying one’, the TV ad urged people to practice safe sex in an attempt to reduce the spread of ‘needless STIs’, which a million people contract every day worldwide.

Durex owner Reckitt Benckiser said condom sales rose more than 10% globally after restrictions were relaxed and ‘a summer of love’ followed.

Bumper condom sales helped Reckitt’s health division, which also includes the disinfectant brands Dettol and Lysol, report like-for-like sales growth of 12.6% for the three months to the end of September 2020.

More recently, the brand has reclaimed one of the most-hated words in the English language: moist.

It’s been promoting its lubrication products via an ad that sees a diverse range of women saying the word aloud, directly to camera and growing progressively more comfortable with it the more they say it.

The push continues Durex’s ‘Ladies Let’s Lube’ campaign, which launched in 2019 and aims to de-stigmatize female sexual discomfort and promotes a solution to it through the use of lubrication.

All in all, a brilliant year for the brand when it comes to taboo-busting campaigns that are making people think twice about sex, safe sex and what it means.

We’ll be celebrating all our favorite things about 2020 on thedrum.com between now and early January. Keep an eye on our New Year Honors hub to read more.