Your mom drives the same route home every day, but she suddenly finds local streets confusing and unfamiliar. Your wife's an avid bookworm who abruptly stops reading because she can't concentrate or recall what she's just read. A family member always keeps everything in its proper place; then, without explanation, cups, saucers, toothbrushes and car keys start popping up where they clearly don't belong.
Such scenarios play out in four animated spots, including one in Spanish, from the Ad Council and the Alzheimer's Association. They're voiced by real folks struggling with the disease. Timed to coincide with Alzheimer's & Brain Awareness Month in June, the work, created pro-bono by The Community, urges viewers to talk with loved ones when cognitive decline first appears, and prompts them to visit alz.org/ourstories for guidance.
"We wanted a more approachable artistic expression of how symptoms can feel," agency art director Chris Jones tells Muse. "We didn't want to be dramatic or scare people away from this disease, but rather set viewers in the world of our characters to get a better understanding of how these symptoms and their surroundings felt to them and their families. We felt the world of animation was elegant, kind and allowed us to dramatize the disease in an imaginative way."
Bastien DuBois' simple, attractive illustrations, and two-time Academy Award winner Gustavo Santaolalla's subtle score create a comforting vibe that underpins the heartfelt narration.
"It is all real audio of people currently living with Alzheimer's," Jones says. "A small group of us were fortunate enough to travel across the country to the homes of these brave families who wanted to share their stories. Sourcing the audio was a pretty intimate experience. There were only ever three people in the room—the person living with the disease, their care partner and the interviewer. We tried our best to make it less like an interview and more like a conversation."
The voiceovers resonate with sincerity, and the whole package comes across as supportive and reassuring for the nearly three in four Americans, according to a recent survey, who say talking to a family member about Alzheimer's would be challenging for them.
"We were most surprised at how opposite these families were to what we were expecting," Jones says. "They were the most positive, optimistic people in the room, and just really wanted their stories to get out there and help people have a conversation they were too afraid or uncomfortable to have otherwise."
The work continues a trend of PSAs finding novel ways to address the disease. That's especially important, as a steady stream of shocking ads through the years could leave some viewers inured to such messaging. Recent examples of unexpected creative approaches include "Daughter and Mother," told mostly from a kid's point of view, and "Share the Orange," featuring Bryan Cranston, which also used animation.
"Close family members are typically the first to notice memory issues or cognitive problems, but they are often hesitant to say something—even when they know something is wrong," says Ad Council chief campaign development officer Heidi Arthur. "We're asking them to trust their gut if something feels different, and have that important conversation about Alzheimer's. This conversation is often the first step in getting an early diagnosis, and can be an opportunity for better care and management of the disease."
ALZ Our Stories
Agency: The community, USA
Chief Creative Officer and Founder: Joaquín Mollá
Chief Creative Officer and Founder: José Mollá
VP, Executive Creative Director: Robert Hershfield
Executive Creative Director: Daniel Perez-Pallares
Sr. Director of Innovation: Christopher Neff
Art Director: Christopher Jones
Copywriter: Aldo Gonzalez
Creative Technologist: Carrie Monescalchi
President: Luis Montero
VP, Managing Director: Ana Bermudez
Sr. Account Director: Gaby Benitez
Account Executive: Odalis Lopez
Account Executive: Veronica Salgueiro
Account Coordinator: Kristen Paterno
Sr. Director of Cultural Planning: Arty Tan
VP, Head of Production: Laurie Malaga
Senior Producer: Julio Rangel
Senior Producer: Robert Hannau
Producer: Luchis Riquelme
Associate Producer: Monique Beaupre
Director of Studio Operation: Thomas Bolger
Manager of Creative Services: Maru Sokolowski
Sr. Business Affairs Manager: Daphne Papadopulos
Project Manager: Suzana Orsolic
Design Director & Managing Partner: Thomas Lichtblau
Tech Director & Managing Partner: Thomas Ragger
Tech Lead: Moriz Büsing
Production: Acme Filmworks, Inc
Direction and Design: Bastien Dubois
Executive Producer: Ron Diamond
Producer: Pernille D’Avolio
Client: The Ad Council
Chief Campaign Development Officer: Heidi Arthur
VP Group Campaign Director: Dzu Bui
VP Group Campaign Director: Tracy Danicich
Director Digital Product Management: Rebecca Mir
Digital Product Manager: Carolina Treviño
Campaign Manager: Brooke Schlesinger
Campaign Manager: Sarah Mann
Campaign Management Assistant: Citrine Ghraowi
Director, PR, Social Media and Brand: Emily Kostic
Assistant Manager, Public Relations and Social: Leah Fagen