The Department of Health and Social Services insists it was in on the joke when it came up with a vitamin D campaign that quickly became the target of Internet mockery over the weekend.
Still, the department has since revised the ads, which encourage Yukoners to get enough vitamin D in their diets, by removing all references to “the D” – slang for male genitalia.
“We knew it was an innuendo for sex,” said health spokesperson Pat Living. “We did not realize that it was as crude as it is now being purported to be.”
“We all need the D. Even me!” proclaimed a poster picturing a smiling woman. A secondary picture, including a baby, was part of the background.
“I’m in my 30s, who knew I needed to do the D?” said another with a picture of a man and his dog.
A photo of one of the posters made the rounds on social media over the last few days and had been viewed more than 10,000 times as of Monday morning. It generated a news story on Buzzfeed Canada.
By Tuesday afternoon views of the original image had gone up to 23,000. The story was picked up by websites around the world including People magazine, Vice, the Globe and Mail, Toronto Star and the UK’s Independent. For a time it was the most popular story on Adweek’s website.
The news gave headline writers around the world a chance to dust off their best dirty jokes and take a shot at the territory.
“Everyone in the Yukon is thirsty for the D according to this hilariously misguided government ad campaign,” proclaimed the website Uproxx.
“‘We all need the D,’ says world’s worst public health campaign,” read another story.
“Yukon Health And Social Services wants to make sure everyone gets a whole lot of D,” offered a third.
Back home, the Yukon’s Health Department took to Facebook to explain its decision.
“While the campaign had some unexpected results, such as being mentioned in BuzzFeed, we definitely hit our target audience and beyond. In fact, the very first sentence in the BuzzFeed article says: ‘Yukon Health and Social Services is running a campaign to remind people to take their vitamin D.’
This is the entire point of the campaign.”
Living said the idea for the campaign was developed by the department, working with a designer.
She said the advertisements, which include posters and larger ads inside city buses, have all been taken down and will not be going back up.
One of the reasons is that local models used in the campaign have started to suffered backlash, she said.
“They were brought in to do a job and now people are providing very personal comments. Which are completely inappropriate and I’m really disappointed, honestly, that people would take it to that level.”
Living couldn’t say how much money the department spent on the campaign.
“It was really not a huge amount. For a campaign it was a very minimal amount.”
The government’s website, marketing the virtues of vitamin D, is still online. The image of the woman is still there, but the wording of the text has been changed to “Did you take your vitamin D today?”
Contact Ashley Joannou at