No Sympathy: Gillette Children’s Unflinching Campaign Against Pity

One of the most common reactions to someone else’s bad news is not knowing what to say. The first instinct is to give comfort, to be positive, to offer advice. Without thinking, we take full responsibility for taking away someone’s pain, someone we perceive as helpless. With only two words Gillette Children’s brand campaign cuts through those assumptions decisively: “Cure Pity.”

Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare is a world-renowned, non-profit hospital in Minnesota’s Twin Cities. The integrated campaign, which uses local broadcast, web, and out-of-home advertising to feature stories like Noah’s, inspires a new way of thinking—going from great to greater; from achievement to lasting achievement—as an alternative to our habitual response, which is to go from what we think of as “bad” to slightly better. From disabled to merely able. As a message, Cure Pity is powerful enough to help people start looking at their fellow humans a little differently.

The campaign is as smart and strategic as it is inspired.

Campaigns that cultivate pity induce a feeling of hopelessness that your one, meager contribution can make any difference. Perhaps you make one donation, one time, to shake off the uncomfortable feeling. Instead of pity, a more positive message invites compassion, which is an invitation to a deeper experience of shared humanity. Cure Pity asserts a call to action based on admiration instead of despair. It also subtly positions Gillette Children’s over an unnamed alternative: other hospitals that focus less on fostering quality of life and more on symptoms.

From a visual perspective, the campaign has one unrealized opportunity. It could do much more to pair up the copy with better design. Without both you wonder if an organization is fully committed to its message.

The strength of Cure Pity is storytelling. As a creative achievement, it asserts a social message that also helps a mission-driven organization continue to do great work. Advertising becomes culturally relevant when it can do either one of those things; curing pity does both.

– Eric Hayward

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