Inspiring Youth to Take Action


to Act

DC Health recognized that DC youth are generally aware of sex ed for prevention of HIV/AIDS and STI transmission. However, they also found that many of those youth lack the skills, confidence, and ability to negotiate conversations about testing, disease status, and condom use. The need to educate and foster a culture that supports independent and positive decision-making among this demographic was obvious. The department selected Octane to help create a campaign for youth.


In 2012, 54% of District high schoolers and 19% of District middle schoolers were having sex.


Octane conducted focus groups to examine the factors underpinning the attitudes and behaviors of youth when it comes to sexual behavior and decision-making. The findings were key in developing movement messages and identifying communications channels for reaching target audiences.

Key Findings

  • DC youth are generally aware of safe sex
  • Messaging using fear does not work
  • Youth see teen pregnancy as a consequence


  • Increase DC youth skills around safe sex and healthy relationships
  • Engage youth in activities that develop their leadership skills
  • Motivate DC youth to access sexual health counseling, testing and treatment services

The Creative

Understanding the need to speak to DC youth directly and with a peer-to-peer focus, Octane created a program identity with 15 campaign ambassadors. These ambassadors were real DC youth—nominated by school officials and mentors who highlighted the positive things they have done in their schools and communities.

Engaging DC youth and building on the idea of aspirational imagery, Octane developed #ShowOff, a youth empowerment movement aimed at encouraging DC youth to make independent decisions about their sexual health and well-being. As a youth celebration movement, #ShowOff also highlighted the great things youth are doing at home, school, and in the community through social media, peer-to-peer engagement, and the use of powerful themes and messages. The campaign came to life with youth-featured photoshoots and original artwork.

Thanks to the campaign’s involvement through local events, music festivals, online contests, and guerrilla marketing the #ShowOff brand had a strong presence with DC youth.

The End Result

In the 2nd phase of the campaign, Octane continued to use art and music as a method to connect with the youth audience and developed a music video that featured DC youth.


#ShowOff became visible to DC youth through guerilla marketing and paid and earned media. Results were measured through social media analytics and media reach. The reach of the movement was extended through partnership with over 30 community organizations.  More than 500,000 posters, palm cards, and promotional items were distributed at youth events and to community organizations.

The campaign also relied on youth run publications and community outlets that youth engage with in order to spread the word:


The Do Harm radio show

interviewed the #ShowOff Ambassadors, which reached an audience of 37,000.


The Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP)

Washington DC’s youth programming initiative, posted a blog about #ShowOff that reached over 2,000 youth ages 5-24.


WPGC 95.5

Partnership with local radio station WPGC 95.5 reached over 177,000 youth ages 6-17.

The campaign took off on social media and in the digital space. With the help of youth ambassadors and social media advertising the campaign achieved the following results:

impressions overall
#ShowOff followers and fans on social media
views for the #ShowOff music video
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