The Pitch: Be the Voice of 1.
"The JDRF is on The Pitch. It's after Mad Men. You watch Mad Men, right?"
This is the paraphrased version of several texts I received on Sunday night from friends and family, alerting me to the fact that the JDRF was the featured "client to win" on AMC's The Pitch. (Removed is the part of the discussion where I admit to not watching Mad Men and am flogged repeatedly by 160 text characters.) Two ad agencies, Bozell and Muse, were hot to earn the JDRF as a client, and while the focus of the show was the preparation for the pitch, it was really cool to see type 1 diabetes folded into the storyline. I'd never tuned in to The Pitch before, but I was glad I caught this episode. (You can download it from iTunes.) There were a few things that leaped out at me as notable; here we go:
National Exposure. Type 1 diabetes doesn't often find itself receiving national television exposure. And I was proud to see the CEO of the JDRF, Jeffrey Brewer, giving the rundown on why type 1 diabetes deserves the attention of the nation. This show helped the diabetes community, and our message, reach outside of the bubble.
TOD. Tod? Aka "Type One Diabetes?" With Bozell pitching "TOD" as a character for the nation to rally against and hate, I was more than a little eh on this. I'm not best friends with my diabetes, but I don't want to foster any additional rage or hate for it. For me, that would lead to resentment, and it's already earned too much of that from me after twenty-five years. I don't want to wear a t-shirt that says "I (Don't") Heart TOD." Diabetes is a disease. I don't want it personified, because then I'd want to hunt Tod down and punch him in the face.
"One Less Prick." This tagline, constructed by Muse, is sassy. But immediately makes me think of a wiener or someone I can't stand to be around. (Or maybe both.) Which isn't the perception I want society having of my disease. I know I like to laugh at the fact that the pancreas is shaped like a wiener. I also make really terrible jokes with my friends about this disease. But when it comes to public perception of type 1 diabetes, I don't want double entendres and snickers (not that kind) dominating discussion. Diabetes is a disease, and one that needs funding for research and a cure. I think "One Less Prick" is a powerful message, but I didn't feel it was one that would change, or inspire, public perception. However, if it was a campaign aimed at people already familiar with diabetes, I think it would have been a clever one.
Be the Voice of 1. Okay, so (SPOILER) this was part of the winning pitch from Bozell. Their campaign, Be the Voice of 1, has a website culling Tweets hosting certain keywords (seems like "JDRF" and "T1D" will earn you a spot on their "wall), encourages people to text a donation (yay!) to JDRF, and includes a video showing how T1D affects so many different demographics.
"It was bigger than a campaign for JDRF; it was a campaign for type 1 diabetes," said Jeffrey Brewer. Personally, I don't think it was a bad start, regardless of who they chose, because the campaign already scored legs by being introduced on a television show. What happens next remains to be seen, though. It's hard for me to see the forest for the trees in this kind of situation, because I'm already intimately familiar with type 1 diabetes. Would this campaign grab me if I was Polly Workin'-Panc, strolling by a subway stop in NYC? Would I stop and look twice if I made my own insulin? What makes a media message about diabetes stand out to people who aren't intrinsically tuned in?
Media campaigns can only take a message so far. It's up to our community, and our supporters, to follow through on these messages with as much advocacy, fundraising, and passion as we can muster. I'm only the voice of my own type 1 diabetes, but if we all raise our voices together, we can really make a difference. I hope to see this campaign raise some real awareness.