Advertising /Organ donation – By @mazzystar81

By Mary Kerr


Advertising /Organ donation


I’d never given advertising much thought until one day in 2010 I took up the challenge to try and rebrand organ donation. I had no tools. Just a couple of ideas and a lot of passion. 
I was 11 when my mother’s friend Sarah brought her children over to hang out to hang out with for the day. Anna was 13, the same age as my sister Clare and her younger sister Milly was my age. Their little brother Johnnie who was only 6 tagged along on our adventures but was far happier exploring the garden than talking about music and magazines. As the day drew to a close and their car drove away, Mum explained to us that both girls had Cystic Fibrosis and that it was unlikely they would live beyond 15.  This was the first time we had come into contact with the idea of a young person dying; especially one we now knew. A year later Anna passed away.
After Anna died we didn’t see as much of Millie and Johnnie as they moved further away. Anna always remained in my thoughts and I often asked Mum about Millie. When I was 22 news reached us that there had been a freak accident and that Johnnie had died whilst swimming. Johnnie had dyspraxia and had blacked out in the pool and drowned. It was devastating. Sarah had lost two of her children and knew that Millie was on borrowed time. 

In 2010 when I was back from New York I saw an article in the paper saying ‘Who will give Milly the gift of life?’ It was now Milly’s time and the papers were putting out a plea for her need for a double lung transplant. In the photographs in the paper, Milly’s newborn baby Lucia lay in her arms. My heart broke and I thought how hard can it be to find some lungs on the organ donor list? The more I thought about it the more I realised how little I knew about organ donation. I then realised that I wasn’t even on the list. To me the little paper organ donor card always gave me the impression of some out of date, granola eating hippy from the 70s. It felt so dusty and the last place you would want to give your body to. The more I researched the more I realised how many other people had their own preconceptions. I registered and decided that organ donation needed a a rebrand. 
I went with my partner at the time to NHSBT and teamed up with a charity called Live Life Give Life and we started working on a new campaign. We were just two filmmakers but they trusted us and our enthusiasm and had no money to pay an agency. We all decided we needed to use humour to debunk some of the myths. Make them laugh or make them cry. We wanted to take it out of the realm of potential illness, death, tragedy – and more into the life giving heroic gift that it is. We approached David Mitchell and Russell Howard who had already worked with LLGL. I also suggested that the old paper cards be replaced with sleeker ones. I was told the cards would cost too much but we had a positive response to the initial stages of the campaign idea. As things were getting going ‘work work’ took off for me, paid work that I had to return to. Milly sadly passed away a few months after the article was published. 
I worked over the next year and by the time I returned to the campaign we heard that our contact at LLGL had also sadly passed and the lady at NHSBT had left the department. Something had to change. We needed more donors. I felt helpless. I didn’t have the knowledge nor power of a big agency behind me. I carried on feebly and in 2012 organ donation did get a semi rebrand. Nothing to do with me but a new sleek card was produced. It was no longer the paper, granola membership card but something you felt proud to have. There have since been many developments including talk of the ‘opt out’ system being adopted by 2020. I know, however, from talking to people involved that families still get the final say in the matter and there is a long way to go shake the subject’s taboo nature.
When done right, I love that a campaign has the power to draw an audience in, connect with them and lull them into a false sense of security. And then when they are not expecting it, strike and challenge them – turn their world upside down. ‘Shape culture. Change the world’ Marc says and I totally believe that that is the greatest opportunity life that  anyone can have.
The copy scores 76.3 in the Flesch Reading Ease test

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