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Forefront of Advertising: Sufferers

Edited by Admin
Forefront of Advertising: Sufferers

With the recent news of the passing of the renowned mind of Stephen Hawking, we came across a campaign recently done by Ogilvy for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis – ALS, in partnership with the Steve Gleason Enduring Voices Act. As many will know, most people with ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, lose the ability to speak and must communicate through other means, like technology. The campaign was aimed to show how speech technology can help give the people back their voice.


This campaign resonated with us because the idea of bringing “sufferers” to the forefront of advertising, rather than having them on the sidelines is very empowering, innovative and humbling. This is a very humanizing initiative to a population that is often misunderstood. The ability to see a perceived negative and make it into a positive is what all advertisers should strive to achieve.


The campaign was aimed at America’s politicians to help promote and push a bill to be passed that allowed Medicare to permanently pay for speech-generation technology- which was famously used by Hawking.


To demonstrate the power of these speech generation technologies, Ogilvy decided to have a group of people with ALS call politicians using the exact same technology they’re fighting for. Now, because the speech technology makes people sound like robots, a lot of the politicians hung up the phone as soon as they heard their voices. What’s ironic, is that politicians use automated messages to call people during their election campaigns. 


However, the ALS callers were persistent, and the politicians who stayed on the phone were greeted with a very powerful message:


“Hello. Please do not hang up. I may sound like a robot, but I am a real person… I have been living with ALS for 10 years. The disease has taken away my ability to speak naturally. But thanks to eye-tracking technology and a voice generator, I still have a way to communicate with the world. But what if I told you I was in danger of losing access to my voice? The Steve Gleason Enduring Voices Act helps ensure I will always have affordable technology covered by Medicare. So I can continue to communicate with the people I love and live with purpose.”


The idea of having “sufferers” in the forefront of advertising reminded us of what FCB Canada did with the Canadian Down Syndrome Society. They had real people and children with Down Syndrome answer the top googled questions about the disorder through videos, and had amazing results. The agency recognized that websites were missing the human element to their clinical answers. Who better to answer questions in an inspirational and empowering way then people actually living with Down Syndrome.


When we challenge the status quo of advertising and society, we can leave an impression that will last forever.


There was also a light at the end of the tunnel for the ALS campaign; through the efforts of the people with ALS who called the politicians, the advertising agency, and politicians, the Steve Gleason Enduring Voices Act was made permanent!