How a Health Scare Close to Home Got This Agency Recruiting Organ Donors

Young & Laramore's message comes from the heart

Two years ago, Maggie Denari, the 54-year-old wife of Tom Denari, president of Indianapolis-based agency Young & Laramore, went into cardiac arrest while out for a run. Doctors implanted a defibrillator to help keep her alive. In January, she received a heart transplant. 

Now, her story forms the basis of a moving appeal from Y&L, themed "See the Heart," that encourages Indiana residents to register as organ donors when they renew their drivers' licenses. 

The Denaris' daughter Jordan, an author and speaker, narrates this video …

… while Maggie tells her own story on the website.

The tone is upbeat, as the campaign asks Hoosiers to check their licenses for a small heart symbol that indicates they've registered, and thanks them for helping save lives. (Research determined that some who thought they had signed up actually hadn't.) 

There is also a charming demo video showing how to make an origami heart:

The Denaris, along with Y&L executive creative director Carolyn Hadlock, chatted with Muse about the initiative. 

Muse: How did such an intensely personal project come about?

Hadlock: The Denaris had no idea that we wanted to do this. The day after the transplant, a few of us got together to talk about what we could do to support Maggie and the Denari family. They are an independent lot, which meant dinners and family help were out. So, we leaned on where we're most comfortable—spreading the word about organ donation. 

As we got into it, we were happily surprised about the high percentage of organ donors in Indiana—we were sixth in the nation—which meant there was a high level of support already. We didn't need to make a case for organ donation. What hadn't been done was putting a face on an abstract concept. Maggie's story was so compelling, given her age, her health and her history, that we felt it would be the perfect narrative to combat stereotypes for transplant patients. 

The toughest part was creating enough of a framework and concept to get them on board, without our chief strategist being involved. We knew we had to have enough for them to understand the intent and the voice. We had no idea how either [of the Denaris] would react. 

Muse: Did Maggie need convincing, or was she on board from the start?

Tom Denari: Honestly, I was more reticent than she was. When the notion was first presented to me, just a few weeks after the surgery, my first thought was that Maggie wouldn't want the spotlight on her—which she doesn't. 

Maggie Denari: When Tom got home, and told me what the team wanted to do, I was really touched by the idea and open to hearing more about it. When I came down to the office, and they read me the script and showed me some very rough animations, I knew we had to do it. 

Muse: If this campaign could achieve one goal, what would it be?

Hadlock: Our initial intent was not to do this for editorial coverage. But after we got into it and saw it come together, we realized we had to share it with a wider audience. "See the Heart" began with a personal story, but the cause and need is universal. If we can get more people to check their license, chances are we can increase the percentages of organ donors across all states.  

Muse: The message is very positive. Can you speak to that approach?

Tom Denari: Guilting people into action generally isn't all that effective. Instead, this video and campaign uses social norming, leaning on the fact that in Indiana, organ donation registration is popular—what almost everyone is doing. We assume that people want to be registered, but just haven't checked their license or haven't gotten around to it. If you're not from Indiana, the message is also relatable: "If they're doing it, maybe we should, too." 


Agency: Young & Laramore

Carolyn Hadlock: ECD / Principal
Rachel Regan: Designer
Deidre Lichty: Senior Writer
Paul Schreiber: Videographer
Julia Breakey: Video Editor / Motion Graphics
Sydney Haggard: Digital Developer

Mason Thomas: Consumer Insights and Analytics
Kari Peglar: Director, Consumer Insights and Analytics 

In-House at Young & Laramore
Music: "Sky in Your Bones"  by Tutlie

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