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Autism is Closer to Home: Ad Council, Autism Speaks Launch New Awareness Ads

July 7, 2010 57 comments

This guest post is by Bill Shea, Autism Speaks’ National Director of Creative Services. He has been with Autism Speaks since the very first meeting in Bob Wright’s office at 30 Rock and one of his responsibilities has been offering creative guidance to the Ad Council and BBDO.

When BBDO and the Ad Council launched our first awareness campaign in 2006 the CDC numbers said that 1 in 166 children were on the autism spectrum. The challenge faced at that time was “How do we raise awareness about autism and to get the world to listen?”

Our first campaign was called the “Odds”. It was designed with the insight that parents and guardians have certain dreams and aspirations for their child. We all dream that our child will be the next Britney Spears or the next Derek Jeter. The “Odds” of your child having autism were greater then your child becoming a professional athlete, or a Grammy award-winning singer.

The campaign was immediately accepted and rapidly became one of the Ad Councils most popular campaigns. In its first year, the “Odds” campaign was ranked among the Ad Council’s top ten campaigns, with donated media reaching over 66 million dollars.

Just after we finished the second round of creative the CDC numbers changed from a prevalence of 1 in 166 to 1 in 150. We knew that our messaging was working but we also knew that we needed to make the spots more hard hitting – because the numbers were growing with no signs of a cause.

The team over at BBDO came up with the brilliant idea of turning the “Odds” campaign on its head. Why not show celebrities that beat the odds of becoming tops in their field but didn’t beat the odds of having a child with autism? The challenge then became who was going to be brave enough to show the world that they have a child on the spectrum? Well, we found them. Ernie Els and Toni Braxton. We never could have done the spots without the help of these two professionals who are at the top of their game. These spots helped to drive the message even further home and we saw awareness of autism rise over 20%  among parents of young children.

Then in December of 2009, the CDC announced the latest prevalence statistics, this time to 1 in 110, one in 70 boys.

Autism IS closer than you think.

To quote Ronald Ng, executive creative director, BBDO New York, “It is no longer someone in your distant friend circle; it is becoming a reality within your peers, and even your own family.”

I am proud to introduce you to the new Ad Council campaign created this year by our excellent team over at BBDO. Bob Emerson (Executive TV Producer), Ronald Ng (EVP, Executive Creative Director), Tim Wettstein (Associate Creative Director) and Patrick Herold (Associate Creative Director) worked with award-winning director Lasse Hallstrom to come up with this riveting and powerful ad that really brings this message home. Dan, the young actor in the spot, has a niece on the spectrum and the dad at the end of the commercial is the real father of Max, who is on the spectrum.

Thanks to all the great media outlets out there who continue to give us free space to run these important ads. Thanks also to the Ad Council for taking us on for another three-year campaign. We are sure that this ad will take the message of autism awareness to the next level.

Read Autism Speaks’ press release here.

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