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
This ad is from a campaign sponsored by the Dept. of Health and Human Services.
Thanks for the help, but...
Couple of interesting assumptions in there. One, that African American men aren’t good fathers. Two, that anybody — especially a government agency — has the right to judge someone else’s parenting. Helping families succeed and looking after kids are noble intentions. This tactic smacks of the Moynihan era.
Fatherhood dot gov indeed.
Todd Cherniawsky, supervising art director, could be considered the real storyteller behind Avatar, which opened in 3D this weekend. You could almost turn off the dialogue and not only still understand what’ s happening, but understand it better.
The quickest possible synopsis: wheelchair-bound ex-Marine Jake Scully signs up for a tour on the moon Pandora to run an Avatar—a host body fusing the pilot’s DNA with a native Na’vi body—for a research project bound to the rapacious agenda of a mining company protected by a Marine contingent.
Much of the plotted tension, between the Na’vi, who live completely in harmony with nature in a mysterious biological link, and the forces that would uproot them in search of the valuable mineral “Unobtanium,” happens visually. To work, the film needs you to connect with the Na’vi, but rather than courting your brain with narrative, it courts your eyes, cutting from green, blue, and phosphorescent forests of the moon surface to the dusty green and gray of the mining base. (It’s like stepping out into the lobby after having been inside a really good aquarium).
Whatever your intellectual or moral reaction might be to real-world stories of environmental destruction, your senses revolt in response to any threat to the Na’vi’s forest home.
The art directors deserve a lot of credit, Oscars really, but what they’ve done is directly translate the contents of film director James Cameron’s imagination. As a London Globe and Mail
interview reveals, Cameron, whose past films include Terminato
r, The Abyss
, and Titanic
, has a historical ambivalence for technology going back to his first screenplay, as well as a personal passion for diving and the sea. You don’t have to look to hard for those influences in the imagery of Avatar
. Cameron is himself an artist, if not a trained one. According to Globe and Mail
he started his creative life sketching fantasy creatures in his school notebooks and later went on, after dropping his Physics education for English, to create special effects for director John Carpenter.
Cameron at work. James Cameron’s Avatar: A symphony in blue and green.
To express affection, the Na’vi say, “I see you.” This means a lot for them, a species who relies upon and values the wisdom of the senses. Advice to you, see this movie.
Other pictures credited to Twentieth Century Fox Corporation, 2009.
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