469 N. Harrison Street
Princeton, New Jersey 08543-5297
Telephone: (609) 683-5900
Fax: (609) 683-5900
Web site: www.trojancondoms.com
Until 2001 Carter Products Division, a division of Carter-Wallace, Inc., owned the world's largest condom brand, Trojan. Although the condom industry had enjoyed an increase in profits in the late 1980s and early 1990s, by the mid-1990s growth had stagnated. Carter Products hoped to regain customers and to attract new consumers for its Trojan brand with a humorous marketing approach. Public discussion of condoms had been discouraged because the subjects of sex and contraception were considered taboo, but Carter Products believed a lighthearted advertising touch would break through these barriers and make condoms accessible and acceptable. Hoping to make using condoms "cool" and eventually increase sales, Carter Products released its "Trojan Man" campaign.
Created by Carter Products' longtime ad agency, Bates USA, Inc., the "Trojan Man" campaign started with radio commercials in 1996 and expanded into the television arena in 1998. The campaign was financed with Carter Products' estimated $7 million annual advertising budget. In the commercials a superhero-like spokesperson known as Trojan Man showed up during intimate moments between couples or friends to offer Trojan condoms. The spots ended with the tagline "Trojan. America's #1 Condom. Trusted for over 80 years." The "Trojan Man" campaign began as a brand-enhancing endeavor, but in 1997 Carter Products geared it toward the introduction of new condom products. After Carter Products sold its Trojan brand to Church & Dwight Co. (the maker of Arm & Hammer baking soda) in 2001, similarly themed print, radio, Internet, and television advertisements featuring the horse-riding Trojan Man appeared until 2005. Hoping to appease networks that would in turn grant Trojan more airtime, Church & Dwight stopped using "Trojan Man" in favor of a more reverent campaign titled "Make a Difference."
Trojan condoms accounted for 74 percent of the condom market by 2004, far surpassing the 50 percent market share it held in 1998. Ad critics praised "Trojan Man" for reshaping attitudes that once held condom commercials to be catalysts for promiscuity. Instead, critics argued, the American public began to consider condoms as an alternative to unprotected sex.
Condoms had existed since at least the sixteenth century, but even into the 1990s they were not thought to be a suitable topic for open conversation or for television commercials. In fact the National Comstock Law of 1873 made the sale of condoms for contraceptive purposes illegal and disallowed the distribution of information regarding birth control. Laws also stated that
condoms could only be marketed as products designed to protect people from sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Advertising condoms as birth control devices was forbidden up to the 1970s, and this created some complications for condom manufacturers who wished to advertise their products.
Even as laws became less stringent, the public was deemed unready for televised condom advertisements. In 1975 a local television station in San Jose, California, ran the first commercial advertising condoms, a spot that promoted Trojan brand condoms. The station received numerous disapproving calls, and as a result it conducted a public poll during the evening news broadcast. Although the majority of the viewers found the commercial acceptable, the station chose to cease airing the spots for fear of public backlash.
The role of the condom in American society shifted with the rise of AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) and HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) in the 1980s. A National Public Radio report noted that in 1987 the surgeon general endorsed the promotion of condoms when he declared on network television: "The threat of AIDS is so great that it overwhelms other considerations, and advertising, I think … is necessary in reference to condoms, and would have a positive public health benefit." Despite the surgeon general's statements, however, public service announcements televised on national networks in 1988 focused not on condoms but on increasing AIDS awareness. The networks still refused to air brand-specific condom commercials, but condom companies such as Carter Products did benefit from the publicity provided by AIDS-awareness campaigns. The Encyclopedia of Consumer Brands referred to findings by the Wall Street Journal that indicated 40 to 50 percent yearly growth in condom sales following the publication of the surgeon general's 1986 report declaring the usefulness of latex condoms in protecting people against HIV infection. The sales growth dropped considerably in the early 1990s...