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Sometimes advertising is a matter of life or death

BC&F Dentsu

Sometimes advertising is a matter of life or death

BC&F Dentsu

APAC Effie Awards 2017, Silver Positive Change Social - Non-profit & Bronze Government/Institution
Dentsu Aegis Network Global Innovation Awards 2016, Gold in Effectiveness

Heart disease is New Zealand's biggest killer, taking 6,500 live each year, about half of which are preventable. That’s a lot of people dying unnecessarily. 

The Heart Foundation had to fight back.

They set BC&F Dentsu an ambitious goal: Increase awareness of heart attack symptoms by 15% and ambulance calls by 10% in just two weeks.

Heart attacks affect people differently. So there’s a vast list of symptoms, which may or may not be experienced, and are often subtle.

BC&F Dentsu conducted quantitative and qualitative research and discovered that many didn’t actually know what a heart attack looked like. Thanks to the melodrama of movies, they thought the pain would be so bad that the person wouldn’t be able to speak.

So a playful and tempting challenge was chosen to show people what a heart attack really looked like.

BC&F Dentsu created a television ad, asking viewers to guess who gave the most realistic performance of someone experiencing a heart attack. But it was a trick question. Watch to find out what happens: 

This simple mental shortcut meant sufferers could recognise themselves as ‘the man on the bench’, take the symptoms seriously and call for help.

Following the campaign, St John Ambulance reported a 28% increase in calls relating to heart events and awareness of symptoms increased by 54%.

But more importantly, the campaign actually saved lives:

“Without That Heart Foundation Ad I Think I’d Be Dead” – Ian Lancaster felt symptoms he recognised from the ad and dialled 111. He had a cardiac arrest in the ambulance but has since made a full recovery.

Eddie Davies would have dismissed his ‘heart burn’. “Without that Heart Foundation ad I think I’d be dead. It certainly triggered something in my brain to call for the ambulance.” 

Phil Sunitsch would also have ignored his chest aches. “Honestly, if it hadn’t been for that ad on TV, I would have gone to bed and something much worse could have happened.”

The Cardiologist who treated Ian Lancaster, Andrew Aitken, said, “Ian's first words to me were to the effect that if he hadn't seen the advertisement the night before that he would not have taken his symptoms too seriously. In particular, the prompt to call an ambulance rather than look at driving himself to the ED likely saved his life, as he had a cardiac arrest as the ambulance arrived. If this had happened in a car then there is a very good chance that he would not have survived this.”