As usual, I’m about 3 weeks late to this party. I tend to avoid controversy while its happening, and then right when you think its over and everyone has forgotten…BAM. Here I am all, “I have an opinion and I’m sure its going to piss you off”. You all know what I’m talking about, right? The CCFA ad campaign.
I’m not going to be delicate with this one.
I don’t understand what everyone is all butt hurt about. Period. Its as simple as that. Don’t we have anything better to do than bitch about the first ever IBD awareness campaign? This all goes back to my theory and post about Invisible Awareness week. This is marketing….real marketing. Perhaps its just because I am a marketing professional but I understand this campaign. I’ve seen many people say that this trivializes IBD. People asking “Why aren’t they showing what its REALLY like to have IBD?”
Well…here’s why: Its scary.
If you want any kind of response from the masses you can’t scare them. Think about other large disease awareness campaigns, like Cancer and AIDS. Do they show you people literally dying in hospital beds? No. Why? Because its fucking scary. Commercials for St. Judes, show kids with cancer…in the hospital but happy and smiling. Laughing and hugging cuddly teddy bears. If they showed kids post their chemo treatments, when they are sick and puking their guts out do you think people would be receptive? No.
Do you think the families of those children are upset that the “real” side of cancer isn’t being shown? Hell no. They are happy to get donations to St. Jude to help them care for their children. Lets talk about those commercials that ask you to donate your money to the starving, sick kids in Africa or wherever. They give you a sob story about children that can’t afford food or clothes, and who have no parents or education. They show you sad, adorable children. Do they show you the reality? Children emaciated and literally dying in the streets? Do they show violence over limited food supplies? No. Why? Its scary.
The point of the campaign from the CCFA was to raise awareness. Every ad had the letters “IBD” on it and if nothing else its getting that term to the masses. And quite frankly, everyone pissing and moaning about it, just raised more awareness for IBD because your blog posts, and reposts of those photos just make the terms show up more in Google. Perhaps behind the scenes, they were hoping this campaign would be controversial. Controversy raises conversation, and conversation raises awareness.
Think about this campaign as a first step. It is step one to telling the world about IBD and telling our stories. You can’t scare the world or else they won’t listen, won’t donate, and won’t give a crap. I asked a few people I know who don’t have IBD what they thought about the ads, because everyone keeps saying “People will think that this disease revolves around the bathroom” (News flash: It does). Well the first person I asked, said, and I quote,” I don’t get it, so those people have IBD?”
I think we’re all a little sensitive to the whole “being tied to the toilet” thing, and as a result we think that everyone else must think that IBD is a toilet disease. That’s why I tell my story and why you should too. Talk about it…tell people what its like. Why does it seem like this is one of those “I can make fun of my sister but you can’t” things? In the IBD community we make butt/toilet jokes all the time. We do it because its funny, and because its a coping mechanism. I learned to laugh at this a long time ago…but here’s the thing. The ads don’t make me laugh. They aren’t funny. No one is making fun of us or trivializing anything. Why can we talk about our realities (being stuck in a stall) but no one else can? And if you say because people will just think its the same as IBS then I’ll drop kick you in the face because I have NO Idea how anyone can deduce that from these ads. “IBD” is written all over them, and the info on the bottom gives more info about IBD. I have no clue where the hell IBS comes into this, and I think its just another reason for people to complain about things they can’t control. Was every IBDer consulted on these ads? Nope. Should they have been? Nope. Why? Because you can’t please everyone.
Do you really think that a full account of what IBD is like can be depicted in an 8×10 printed ad? If so, make one. Hell, I’ll fund it and shop it out to ad agencies if you think you can accomplish the following:
- A non-threatening or scary account of life with IBD
- Information/stats/facts about IBD and what it can really do to your body
- Images depicting IBD in a non-offensive manner and in a way that won’t embarass patients or viewers of the ad
- Resources for those who have IBD
- Individual stories about how it affects people differently
- Information about how IBD can affect your mental state in addition to your physical state
- A list of all other ways IBD can affect your body
- Information about PICC lines, TPN, NG tubes, surgery, ostomies, and JP drains
- A list of all the side effects of the medication
Gee that sounds like an awful lot, right? This is a list that I complied from those who are complaining about these ads. I’m telling you right now, its impossible. You cannot fit all of that into a single marketing campaign. Since you can’t, does that mean we shouldn’t market IBD at all?
With all due respect…fuck no. I want people to know about my disease. I want them to know its name. I want them to know that it DOES involve a bathroom so when students in a classroom bolt out the door, their teachers don’t punish them. I want people to know that IBD can alter a life. To me…that is a good starting point and these campaign do exactly that.
The NEXT ad campaign perhaps can give more information. Yes…I said the NEXT one because I’m hoping this is the beginning of many campaigns, campaigns that will make IBD a household name and one that will no longer keep us in hiding. So that we can Escape The Stall…whatever your stall may be.
I think that the CCFA took a risk on this campaign and I think it was worth it, and if you don’t like….fund your own damn campaign or find someone to do it pro-bono. Go find your own celebrity with IBD and have them jump on board to be your spokesperson because that is what awareness takes unfortunately. You have to make your disease sexy. Right now IBD is not a designer disease…but with this campaign it can be. That sounds shitty, right? Well that’s marketing people.
I know many people feel like this campaign depicts our disease in a negative light. Whelp….get over yourself. Period. This campaign is not about you and its not about me. Why? Because it affects us all differently, so one blanket campaign is not going to tell your story or mine. Its a collective voice just telling the world that IBD exists and a lot of different kinds of people live with it.
I’m glad that they took a risk, and put these ads out there. All that I see with these ads is a chance for conversation. A chance to talk about it, share your story, and raise awareness. Whether you like the ads or not, they have done exactly that.