Case study: Bringing optimism to the story of a dying man

A multimedia campaign with one man as its focus brought the MND Association wide coverage

MNDA: Patrick the optimist campaign
MNDA: Patrick the optimist campaign
Motor neurone disease is a rapidly progressive and incurable condition that usually kills within two to five years. So for people living with the disease, and the charities helping them, getting coverage in newspapers and magazines, which tend to like 'triumph over tragedy' articles, isn't easy.

The MND Association's 90-second film Sarah's Story succeeded last year because of the shocking manner in which it communicated the cruelty of the disease.

But the charity wanted to adopt a more positive message for its latest campaign to get across the human impact of the disease to people who know nothing about it. So it gave the agency Baby Creative a £30,000 budget and a brief to develop a campaign across different media.

Like Sarah's Story, the campaign focused on one individual: Patrick Joyce, an artist diagnosed with the disease three years ago.

Patrick, who became the face of the campaign, wants to paint 100 portraits before he dies. His subjects were initially mainly MND sufferers, including Professor Stephen Hawkin - who, the film says, has shown "incurable optimism" while living with the disease.

The phrase chimes with the charity's work and was adopted for the campaign. "While MND is incurable, so is our optimism that one day we will beat this disease," says Mel Barry, communications director at the association.

Five days before the campaign's June launch, the association published an advert in the Daily Mail to generate interest and direct people to the site patricktheoptimist.org, where Patrick blogs.

The campaign also generated editorial coverage in The Sunday Times, the Mail on Sunday and The Sun.

During the awareness week, 80 billboard posters were posted in zone one of the London Underground and 55 more went up on the National Rail network.

The association estimates that the underground posters reached 1.3 million people and would have cost £117,000 had the space not been donated.

It claims that articles and broadcasts about Patrick, including slots on ITV's Loose Women and the BBC World Service, reached 10.5 million people and this coverage would have cost £500,000. Patrick's Facebook page has more than 2,100 'likes'.

"The advertising and press has now come to an end," says Barry. "But Patrick continues in his mission to paint the 100 portraits, and we are planning to hold an exhibition of his work early 2011.

"As Patrick's hands become weaker, the portraits will come to represent the physical decline a person living with MND experiences."

Expert view: Alan Woods, art director, Pixel8

"This campaign really moved me. I wanted to learn more about Patrick. The blog is great: it's visually appealing and easy to navigate. The actual ads are where it falls down a little for me.

Patrick's story has such an emotional hook that it compels you to want to know more about him and the disease. I felt an immediate urgency to read on as time was running out.

The campaign creative doesn't communicate this for me - at least, not consistently. The humility of the message is overwhelmed by the loud colour palette and typography and the real emotional core of the campaign feels almost dismissed by the way the copy is written. I'd be interested to know if the blog and the ad campaign pieces have been created separately as they don't really work together."

Creativity 4

Delivery 2.5

Total 6.5

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