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A Canadian Government Ad Campaign Told Everyone They 'Need the D'

When the Yukon government tried to educate people about the importance of vitamin D, it picked just about the only phrase it should have avoided.
January 26, 2016, 6:15pm

Like, where do you even start? Photo via Yukon Health and Social Services

This article appeared on VICE Canada.

The Yukon government got caught with its pants down (not sorry) after it launched a health campaign boldly proclaiming that its residents "need the D" last Friday.

But the fact that "needing the D" means something different to anyone under the age of 40 was apparently lost on whoever vetted the ads, which were meant to raise awareness for vitamin D deficiency in the territory.


The campaign in question saw several posters posted online and on busses around Whitehorse, the territory's capital. One shows a smiling woman in the foreground, with two others in the background tending to a baby (come on!), topped off with the slogan "We all need the D, even me."

Another poster shows a bearded man crouching beside his dog, accompanied by the question: "I'm in my 30s, who knew I needed to do the D?" (Bonus points to the government for not limiting itself to a heteronormative sense of humor, though it loses points for the hints of bestiality.)

The ads kicked off an inevitable flurry of jeering on social media as Yukoners seized on the government's obliviousness, with local comedian Jenny Hamilton confessing that she had overdosed on D in junior high, and was now a lesbian.

"I just could not let it go unmade fun of, too easy really," Hamilton told VICE.

"As a lifelong Yukoner, I am sure most of us just thought: Really? No one ran this past a group of young people? Say a group of 13-year-old boys or a 40-something lesbian."

Unfortunately, just a few days after the campaign started to get online attention, the government decided people were having too much fun, and they pulled it down from its website.

Patricia Living, director of communications for the department of health and social services, said the ad's wording was intended to catch people's attention, but it hadn't anticipated that it would be blown out of proportion on social media, leading the government to reconsider its approach.


"When trying to reach a young adult audience, [the department] often reaches for provocative and humorous messaging, to great success," she wrote in an email to VICE. "However, what was considered a cheeky, risqué message to draw in attention was escalated, taking the campaign into graphic areas that were never intended."

After admittedly failing to see what was coming, the government is continuing to promote the importance of vitamin D intake with the much less sexy slogan: "Vitamin D: Are you getting what you need?"

Living said the cost of the "D" campaign was "minimal."

"I have no ill will towards Yukon's [health department] in any way. The lack of sunlight can make us all a bit nutty. We probably are lacking some vitamin I am sure," joked Hamilton.

Now the serious stuff about the D:

Canada's long dark winters mean approximately 40 percent of Canadians are vitamin D deficient during the season, compared with 25 percent in the summer.

The reason the numbers fluctuate is because we depend on the sun as our biggest natural source of vitamin D. Supplements such as vitamin D pills and cod liver oil can help boost levels, which, aside from its foray into comedy, is exactly what the Yukon government is promoting.

The vitamin is essential for everything from healthy teeth and bones to reducing the chances of certain forms of cancer, Alzheimer's, and dementia. Studies have also found that vitamin D is important for combatting depression, something which is particularly prevalent in Canada's territories where some communities go weeks on end without seeing the sun in the depths of winter.

And finally, some studies have shown that increasing vitamin D intake can actually boost a man's sperm count.

Definitely something worth pondering the next time you've got the D on your mind.

Follow Cody Punter on Twitter.