Ad Agency Innovation

Hair products campaign with cancer patients
By Sara Rider   |   December 17, 2014

Sometimes, it’s a good idea to create an ad that resembles another company’s well-known ad.  But only if you use the viewer’s expectations as a way to totally surprise the audience—and create an ad that will be noticed because of its shock value.

Last spring, I wrote about a new promotion by a Swedish pharmacy to promote hair care products.  The ad agency Akestam Holst from Stockholm, used a digital billboard in the subway to draw attention to their hair care products. The surprise?  The board was rigged with motion sensors—so that when a train came into the subway station, the digital display would change.  And instead of the model looking at you with her great hair, the hair would blow all around her face.  The ad went viral and generated great buzz for the products.

Fast forward to this fall and the creation of a second digital billboard in the Stockholm subway.  Another model.  Long hair.  Motion sensors that start a video of the hair blowing around her head whenever the train pulls in.  But then it changes.

The “model” is a cancer patient.  Her name is Linn and she’s 14.  And when the hair starts to blow, it finally blows off, revealing her bald head.  The tag line says that one child is diagnosed every day with cancer and urges people to donate.

It’s a PSA donated by Swedish agency Garbergs.  It was up for only two days but became a YouTube sensation with more than 300,000 hits in less than a week.  Today, it is the most viewed Swedish clip on YouTube.

Not many agencies—or organizations—would take the risk of using someone else’s commercial as the basis for their own promotion.  Of course, the fact that a for-profit commercial has turned into a non-profit PSA makes the whole exercise more possible.  (Imagine the Budweiser Clydesdales, before their fall from grace with Anheuser-Busch, as a lead-in for a spot for PETA.)

We can only hope, particularly as people make year-end donations to good causes, that the buzz turned into donations for the Swedish Cancer Society.  And maybe the American Cancer Society can find its own innovative way to bring more attention to childhood cancer.  Because in the U.S., the number of new cases of childhood cancer this year is estimated at 10,450 by the American Cancer Society.  That’s the equivalent of more than 28 cases diagnosed each day.  It’s a cause that needs all the attention—internationally and here at home—that clever advertising minds can create.

by Sara Rider


Sara Rider

About the Author

Sara Rider, Vice President at DeLaune & Associates, has written extensively for the healthcare, financial, non-profit, and technology industries for more than 30 years.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *