When AIDS Foundation Houston (AFH) teamed up with MISTR—a gay-owned and -operated group that offers PrEP (the once-a-day pill regimen for AIDS prevention) through online prescriptions with home delivery—they thought that a traditional person-to-person information campaign would be the way to get people signed up.
But then the Greater Houston LGBT Chamber of Commerce recommended Mad Hat Maven Creative to spearhead AFH’s PrEP marketing, and it turned out to be a marriage made in heaven. Heather Taylor, Mad Hat’s owner and chief consultant, is an active volunteer in the community who had done creative work for the Victory Fund and their Victory Brunch in 2019. She has also served on the Human Rights Campaign’s local steering committee for LGBTQ-friendly political candidates.
“I’m really passionate about the work anyway, so it was just awesome to get this account,” says Taylor. “I was so honored, and everyone in the office wanted to work on it.”
That was early in February of 2020.
“We had to quickly pivot after COVID-19 swept Texas,” recalls Derrick Brown, chief development officer at AFH. “Mad Hat Maven didn’t waste any time. They launched an online marketing strategy overnight that resulted in increased sales within the first few weeks of implementation.”
“We had to redo everything as a virtual campaign. We had to pound the keyboards instead of the pavement,” Taylor notes.
The MISTR marketing strategy, as well as other AIDS-awareness campaigns (such as the CDC’s “Ending the HIV Epidemic” initiative and AFH’s “Let’s Make History” HIV/STD testing campaign) became even more important during the pandemic lockdown.
“We had to get very creative and innovative with all of our services and programs,” says Brown. “We leaned in hard on things people could do from home safely that would impact our HIV stats in the city. We had already seen good success with our MISTR campaigns, and just amped everything up to give as many people as possible access to HIV/STI testing and PrEP. [Then we get people] into treatment if their tests come back positive.”
“It was a very effective campaign,” says Taylor. The success was measured in clicks and online views, as well as the number of patients who signed up for the service. The “Let’s Make History” campaign was presented in various formats including outdoor media, social-media advertising, and in LGBTQ media such as OutSmart magazine. The campaigns garnered Mat Hat Maven Creative three international awards: the 2021 Gold Hermes Creative Awards for their Let’s Make History campaign, the 2021 Silver Muse Award for their AIDS Foundation Houston/MISTR ad design work, and the 2021 Gold AVA Digital Award for their AIDS Foundation Houston/MISTR digital marketing campaign.
The MISTR program allows you to begin PrEP treatment without a doctor’s office visit, paperwork, or needles. You create an online profile and answer a few basic questions in order to receive a simple at-home test kit in the mail. After MISTR’s doctors review your test results, you’ll get a telemedicine consult with a licensed physician who will prescribe the PrEP pill regimen, if appropriate. Your prescription is refilled and mailed to you automatically in discreet packaging every month. If your insurance plan doesn’t cover the cost, the program will work with various patient-assistance programs to ensure you have no out-of-pocket costs.
The MISTR prescription-by-mail program became especially valuable to the LGBTQ community during the early days of the pandemic, when many people were afraid to go to a doctor’s office for fear of COVID-19. Taylor and her staff were very pleased to have had a part in that effort to help more people in the community stay safe and healthy during the pandemic and beyond.