Old Doesn’t Have to Mean Traditional

Integrated approaches to communicating dementia

Alzhiemer’s Society/Fallon

The family are together. There’s laughter and light-hearted ribbing. A grandchild shows her grandfather a photo on her phone. And the gentle terror begins. It’s the Alzheimer’s Society debut TV spot from earlier this year.

Slowly the gentleman’s family disappear and he’s left at the empty table, voices echoing to silence — before a reassuring voice-over reconnects him — and us. Life doesn’t end when dementia begins.

That dementia is getting ad-land airtime is welcome. Both awareness of the disease and the stigma seems to linger well behind cancer. In the course of the last five years my family has been one of the many that’s had to adapt. In the last ten months it’s been all-consuming.

So why do I have a beef with the Alzheimer’s TV campaign? Because it’s traditional. It’s pedestrian. And whilst it’s got away from the infomercial reekiness of care-home chic (and yes, in production Fallon sought out those with direct experience of dementia, and of course that’s to be applauded) the strategic approach remains as dreary as a pair of shuffling slippers. Life doesn’t end when dementia begins. Really?

As I’ve slid into the confusing world of full-time care (I’m talking about the NHS and social services as opposed to the patient) I’ve tried to keep tabs on the professional world I’ve temporarily left behind.

And so I can’t help but wonder — in days where content remains the talk of the town (please, don’t say it’s ‘king’) — why the Alzheimer’s Society weren’t encouraged to examine potential avenues in the content they have on their undersubscribed, but very helpful, youtube channel.

Of course — I get it. The research shows awareness is lax, let’s get on tv with one of the best agencies in town and shift that opinion with a glossy ad. People at the end of 2015 might well be more aware than they were. Donations go up. Mission accomplished.

But as I help my dad through the increasingly scary day to day-ness of it I think — can’t we be more proactive? Couldn’t the Alzheimer’s Society create how-to-cope content to use in traditional TV spots?

With increasing numbers likely to suffer this disease in one form or another, if the information isn’t directly relevant now, it might well be in the future. And in showcasing experiences (and flagging the youtube channel) wouldn’t a content led approach create longer-term brand awareness and advocacy?

Real-life survival strategies are so much more compelling than actors doing their heartfelt best. And knowing there is something you can do — that there’s something people ARE doing (in lieu of a cure) — would, in my experience — be vastly more uplifting than the panacea-to-the-fear of traditional charity advertising, whether or not you’re directly affected.

You still get the awareness. And the call-to-action. So why not present it through content and the actions of those involved?

None of us want to lose our marbles, but perhaps some well-trodden roads are better forgotten.

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