Does the pregnant boys ad go too far?

Jun 12, 2013 at 12:45 p.m. ET

Ads are popping up in Chicago in hopes of curtailing the city’s high teen pregnancy rate, but instead of depicting pregnant teenage girls, the ads show pregnant boys. Is this an insanely clever marketing campaign, a waste of money, or just plain offensive?

Chicago pregnant boy ad

If you are in the Chicago area, you might see ads aimed to reduce teen pregnancy rates on city buses and trains — but instead of the usual image of a teenage girl, you’re greeted with a photo of a shirtless teenage boy, complete with a burgeoning belly and a downcast face.

The Chicago Department of Public Health's teen pregnancy prevention campaign is certainly turning some heads. The new ads feature the images of "pregnant" boys along with the slogan, “Unexpected? Most teen pregnancies are." The ads encourage teens to visit, a website that provides information about contraception, relationships and sex. Is this effort to reduce the city’s teen pregnancy rates a genius marketing ploy, or a silly — or even offensive — waste of energy and money?

Absolutely clever

No matter how you feel about the ads, you have to admit that they’re eye-catching. If you get a glimpse out of the corner of your eye of a teen boy with a pregnant belly, you’re going to give that picture more attention. And this is where the appeal lies with moms. “I think they grab your attention, and I appreciate that they use both options of abstinence and safe sex methods in the same awareness campaign,” shared Jenn, mom of one.

Sharing responsibility

Others feel that it’s great that boys are acknowledged in the ad instead of girls solely shouldering the responsibility for teen pregnancy. “I think it's awesome,” explained Brooke, mom of one. “I'm sick of the 'don't get raped, don't get pregnant, don't have sex' mantra that is usually only targeted at young women. This might seem borderline silly because obviously men can't get pregnant, but I think it's amazing that maybe it will make boys realize that they need to take responsibility for their actions too.”

Missing the mark

While the message is a good one, Niki, mom of one, feels that it really won’t make a difference amongst the audience that needs to understand the meaning the most — teens. “I like what they are trying to accomplish, but I think it's not really going to make a big impact amongst teenagers,” she said. “Generally speaking, teenagers never think it's going to happen to them. I think it's going to speak louder to parents than to the teens themselves.”


Comments on the campaign are generally very positive and indicate that it’s well received, but some feel the ads are borderline creepy or outright offensive. “I get this kinda weird, pedo-feel to it,” stated a commenter on the New York Daily News site. “I mean, why do they have to be shirtless? Could they just lif[t] up their shirts, or be wearing t-shirts? What's up with that pose by the blonde? Why is the black kid in his underwear?”

Most, however, felt that the ads were definitely a step in the right direction, and have enough shock value to grab the casual public transit user and raise some awareness — hopefully enough to carve down the teen pregnancy rate in Chicago.

Image courtesy of Chicago Department of Public Health Facebook

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