‘Are we really going to do this?’: How Genea Fertility is tackling fertility taboos head on

Content Warning: This article contains adult content

Facing a 'sea of sameness' in the category, Genea Fertility took a radical step towards breaking the taboos surrounding IVF, and including all families in the narrative of where babies come from. Head of brand and marketing Nicole Papoutsis and CHE Proximity creative director Jeremy Hogg chat to Mumbrella's Zoe Wilkinson about the importance of trust in the brand-agency relationship to propel a category forward.

‘Where do babies come from?’.

In 2021, one in 20 babies born are conceived via IVF and the classic, heteronormative response to this age-old question is steadily falling out-of-date.

Genea Fertility has taken a somewhat radical response to that, interspersing the emotional highs and lows of trying to conceive amongst animated clips of intercourse and a sperm cell humping an ovum.

Yes, you read that correctly.

And just in case you missed the message, the film is set to Salt N Peppa’s ‘Let’s talk about Sex’.


“There were definitely points where I was like ‘shit are we really going to do this?’, but I think that was also that moment where you go, ‘we have to’,” reflects Genea’s head of brand and marketing Nicole Papoutsis.

At the heart of the campaign is opening up the definition of ‘Where babies come from’, by including same-sex couples and single parents who need help to build their families.

The desire to step out of the box was driven by what Papoutsis describes as an increasingly cluttered IVF market, with lower cost providers marketing themselves similarly to premium providers, the latter a descriptor Genea attaches itself to. Papoutsis says it was beginning to diminish the value of the brand’s services in consumer’s mind, and Genea had to tap back into what was driving consumer choice.

“We were crying out and sort of saying ‘please stop us from drowning in this sea of sameness that is IVF and fertility’,” Papoutsis recalls.

“When we briefed in [CHE Proximity] it was very much about that. It was about helping us differentiate, elevating up out of all of that cloudy greyness that was happening in our category and really breaking taboos around infertility and IVF, because that is one of the big challenges that we have with engaging the audience.”

Genea’s relationship with CHE Proximity (CHEP) is a new one, and the idea for this campaign was borne in the pitch process for Genea’s creative and media accounts. To take such a radical step into the brand, Papoutsis needed to trust in CHEP’s judgement on a campaign that was different to anything it had done before – different to anything anyone in the category had done.

“We’ve just been so confident in the work and are already seeing some great results,” she says. “I think trust in the relationship can never be underestimated either. Being a new partnership it’s a real leap of faith – although of course it was a calculated one with CHEP’s results in the past – but I think it also comes down to how you’re bringing the agency into the fold with the business.”

CHEP creative director, Jeremy Hogg, jokes: “I mean seeing the campaign there are certain conversations, pretty much every conversation, we’ve had to say something interesting or we’ve been describing sexual positions – you know ‘is this right?’, ‘is this okay?’.

“It’s very open and I don’t think there’s ever been a worry about the conversation between agency and client. It’s very much felt like one team.”

The campaign has been live since October and in that time Genea has projected an 89% increase in conversions.

“It actually resonated really really strongly with not just people who are currently going through IVF, but the next generation of IVF patients,” Hogg says.

“We’ve had a lot of comments that are about finally IVF feels like something that’s for me or they saw themselves, it’s something they could be involved with as opposed to feeling like a medical process that is a taboo subject.”

Papoutsis is encouraged by the brand awareness increase, which has more than doubled in future patients.

“We’ve got two quite discrete markets,” she explains. “People that are in the market at the moment looking for IVF and then those that are considering it 12 to 18 months down the road, and they’re a really important group for us so saying that awareness has increased so significantly in such a short amount of time has been absolutely amazing and beyond expectations.”

Genea Fertility has also release a picture book for kids

The campaign went live at the same time the new visual language of the brand was introduced with the two minute film appearing in varying iterations across social, digital channels including BVOD, and earned media. The illustrated aesthetic of the ad has been introduced in the brand’s owned social content, in-clinic materials and communications, and was also used in a picture book available for families to read to their kids about where their baby came from.

Given that the film will never see a life on free-to-air TV, Hogg says the creative and media went hand-in-hand.

“We really couldn’t outspend our competition,” he says. “That’s what dictated how the work should be. It needed to feel new. It needed to be smart and would be something that people wanted to talk about, wanted to share, wanted to be a part of.”

Papoutsis and Hogg are not concerned about complaints about the campaign being lodged to industry watchdog Ad Standards. As well as the more explicit depictions of sex and genitalia, the film includes a clip of a woman checking her underwear and finding she has started her period and not conceived.

“I think that the positive feedback that we’ve received throughout this whole time that it’s been live has absolutely outweighed anything like that,” Papoutsis muses.

“And of course we’re never meaning to offend anyone and that’s not what we’re setting out to achieve, but I think we really believe in the basis for why we have approached it in this way and it’s to get people talking about the topic, and I think it’s at the heart and soul of everything we’re creating.”

“We definitely didn’t want to put in anything that was too gratuitous,” Hogg adds.

“I think it’s designed to entertain and it’s designed to tell a message but there’s nothing in there that feels like it doesn’t belong. It walks a line, definitely.”

An excerpt from the book

The advertising industry is gradually getting real about the realities of sex, sexuality and gender issues, after decades of mysterious blue liquid representing menstrual blood. Libra’s #BloodNormal campaign didn’t shy away from red in its 2019 campaign that aimed to break taboos around periods. The torch was then passed onto ModiBodi’s ‘The new way to period’ last year, which was banned and then unbanned by Facebook. In amongst all of this CHEP also revived ‘The Talk’ with young adults for Four Seasons Condoms. Now, breaking taboos is hitting the world of fertility.

“I think as marketers and advertisers we’ve got real opportunity to help change the conversation and I think be part of those cultural movements in many areas,” Papoutsis says.

“I love it. I love the fact that there’s this openness and willingness to speak up and be more brave in those ways. I don’t think brands can take all the credit but I think they certainly help lend a voice to the cause.”


Head of Brand and Marketing – Nicole Papoutsis
Corporate Communications Manager – Elizabeth Gosch
Media Relations Manager – Alice Ross
Digital Co-Ordinator – Karen Sivieng
Graphic Designer – Philip Kim

CHE Proximity
Executive Creative Director – Cameron Hoelter
Creative Directors – Jeremy Hogg and Richard Shaw
Senior Copywriter – Fee Millist
Art Director — Aicha Wijland
Head of Design – Darren Cole
Senior Designer – Trent Michael
Senior Designer – Sebastian Perez de Arce
Digital Design Lead – Reece Lawson
Designer – Chloe Schumacher
Managing Partner – Renee Hyde
Account Director – Nicholas Biggs
Judy Crema – Senior Account Director – PR
Nick Zonnios – Head of PR
Lauren Hunt – Senior Business Director
Research Marketing Manager – Katherine McCulloch
Director, Strategic Production – Holly Alexander
Broadcast Producer – Elena Szymanski
Technology Project Manager – Anna Boucaut
Technology Project Manager – Seb Bennett-Leat
Senior Editor – King Yong
Creative Technologist – Patrik Fagard
Creative Technologist – Andy Stewart
Chief Media Officer – Mike Deane
Head of Strategy, Media – Tim Russell
Integrated Planner – Anna Longson
Addressable Manager – Yenfei Tan
Digital Executive – Katrina Anastasi

Illustrators: Mrzyk&Moriceau @ Division

Production Company: Division
Directors / Illustrators: Mrzyk&Moriceau
Executive Producer: Genevieve Triquet
Animation: L’Incroyable Studio
Sound Designer: Abby Sie @ Song Zu
Music Publishing: Anton @Trailer Media


Get the latest media and marketing industry news (and views) direct to your inbox.

Sign up to the free Mumbrella newsletter now.



Sign up to our free daily update to get the latest in media and marketing.