Advertising for good: Bone marrow donation drive

We don’t often think about bone marrow donation.

And if we do, we imagine the pain of a needle poking into our spine – which is a misconception (it’s nowhere as painful, given the advances in stem cell harvest).

Until of course, we see the pain and grief of someone close and dear in need.

The Challenge

We wanted people to see and feel this cause. And then perhaps they would make a choice about it – would they opt in or would they turn away?

The Bone Marrow Donor Programme (BMDP) urgently needed to increase the register of donors to save the lives of patients suffering from blood diseases.
They are only 62,000 registered donors. It’s not a lot when you consider:

Every day, 6 people in Singapore are diagnosed with a blood disease;
Siblings have a 1-in-4 chance of being a match and the chances of an unrelated match are 1 in 20,000, usually from within the same racial group;
BMDP receives an average of 45 requests every month and only 58 patients found a matching donor through their registry last year.

We needed 50,000 donors in 3 years – BMDP’s largest recruitment drive ever.

The Insight

‘Ask not for whom the bell toils, it toils for thee.’

All suffering is others until it happens to us and our loved ones.

And most advertising is just advertising unless it makes you feel, think and then asks you to make a choice for or against it. And yes, there’s something each of us can do when it comes to bone marrow donations.

The Idea & The Execution

Patients are often faced with two stark choices – a transplant or die.

Somewhere, a mother, a father, a brother, a sister, a friend, a son, a daughter is waiting.

Somewhere, someone is waiting for the odds to be beaten. Praying that someone will step forward today and take the first step towards being a bone marrow donor.

Somewhere, someone has all his hopes pinned on Project Tomorrow.

Inspired by real life stories, we created two filmlets – a mother hoping for a stricken child, a man hoping against hope in his final days – and let you decide on the outcome online.

We wanted Singaporeans to decide their fate. You decide.

You could see the ending based on your choice.

These videos are supported by the cut-down versions on TV, in cinemas, at roadshows and print ads.

Watch the videos here:

The Results

We’ve just launched the work – it’s too early to tell the results.

But we’re not waiting, we decided to tell you this story, hopefully so you too can join in or pass this on to someone.

We hope a million Singaporeans will view the work. But frankly, we just hope to have 50,000 donors signing up. It will make a difference to the lives in need out there.

You decide.

P.S. To correct the misconception about bone marrow donation, it is not as painful as it was made out to be – with new methods of harvesting:
(1) Stem Cell Harvest – done as an outpatient setting similar to a blood donation, and takes between 5 to 7 hours;
(2) Bone Marrow Harvest – done under general anaesthesia where the bone marrow is collected using a special needle from the back of the pelvic bone, and takes about 40mins

Regardless of your method of donation, your stem cells/bone marrow will be replaced completely within 4 to 6 weeks.