The Motor Neurone Disease Association has been criticised after it published a poster that some commentators said made a connection between not doing the ice bucket challenge and subsequently being diagnosed with the illness.
The charity’s new advertising campaign, called Last Summer, includes a poster of Michael Smith in which he says: "Last summer I was the only person I knew who didn’t do the ice bucket challenge. Five months later, I was diagnosed with motor neurone disease."
Commenting on the poster on social media, some people said it suggested that Smith’s failure to participate in the ice bucket challenge had resulted in him getting the disease.
So, wait, what's the message here? Karma? pic.twitter.com/510uOFfqvw— Ryan Nelson (@RyanJohnNelson) June 1, 2015
@mndassoc twitter reaction shows your ad has backfired massively. The clear implication is that if you didn't do the challenge you might die— Chris Atkins (@scatatkins) June 1, 2015
Chris James, director of external affairs at the MND Association, told Third Sector that the charity was surprised by the reaction and apologised to anyone who had been offended by the posters.
"It was certainly not our intention to cause any offence," he said. "As we always do with our campaigns, we put people with MND at the centre of them. In this case it was Michael talking about his story in his own words."
He said the charity had rigorously reviewed all material for the campaign, which began yesterday as part of MND Awareness Month, before it went out.
In a joint statement, Smith and his wife Tracy said they were proud to be part of the campaign.
"We are shocked that anyone can think that an advert, let alone one that supports and helps people with MND, would suggest you deserve a terminal illness for not doing a viral fad – it says more about them.
"We have been surprised by the reaction of a few vocal people on social media to the poster, many of whom have retweeted without seeing the full text or reading Michael's full story. The comment on Michael's poster was true and from the lips of a real MND fighter."
The charity received more than £7m in donations in just three weeks last year through the ice bucket challenge, which involved people being doused by buckets of icy water and then challenging two or three friends to follow suit and/or make charitable donations.
It did not start the craze but was the major beneficiary of charitable donations made through it in the UK.