Open letter to Angelina Jolie.
We don’t know each other personally. I’ve enjoyed your work once or twice in movies. But it’s fair to say that I only began to really admire you as of last week. Like millions of others, I read your open letter published in the New York Times with a great deal of attention. And what a letter! Not written to make an impression with words. But sincere and full of conviction. Open and direct. With its sights set not on sentimentality but on common sense. And boy, did it hit the mark!
I don’t think there is a single country whose talk shows that night were not about breast cancer and mastectomy in particular. On the internet, your letter was shared and discussed far and wide. It has to be said: there could be no better awareness campaign for breast cancer. Your letter reminded me of the brave statement made by First Lady Betty Ford in 1974. She spoke openly of the mastectomy that enabled her to beat breast cancer. This was a milestone in the history of communication about breast cancer. And we’ve had to wait almost 40 years for another one. And that is all down to you, Angelina. So thank you.
Despite the fact that so much money has been spent on innumerable awareness campaigns over those 40 years, none of them had anywhere near the impact of your words and those of Betty. That got me thinking: how relevant are public awareness messages these days anyway? Call them image campaigns for the non-commercial sector. Image campaigns that don’t generate an instant and measureable boost in sales are a dying breed these days. In advertising relevance and authenticity have taken the place of empty vogue words in English. But when it comes to the non-profit sector, apparently we haven’t moved on at all. No doubt, yet another wave of breast cancer awareness campaigns are ready to be broadcasted across the globe this year. Destined to have far less impact than your letter. You are quite simply better at this awareness thing. Let’s be honest about it: people listen to you, not to advertisers.
What we are good at, however, is finding creative solutions to difficult problems. So instead of wasting all that money on awareness, wouldn’t we be better off investing it in more fundamental thinking? Women who have undergone a mastectomy, for example, know how depressingly inadequate the range of lingerie is adapted to the new contours of their body. How can women still express their femininity at that point in their lives? Those are the sorts of questions we, as advertising creatives, should be concerned with. Of course, it is still essential to inform women about the importance of a regular check-up. But instead of trying to package that information as creatively as possible, wouldn’t we be better off trying to come up with ways of making it virtually impossible for women not to undergo a regular check-up?
These are just preliminary ideas. But the heart of the matter is: Leave awareness to those who people listen to. And use creativity to find solutions.
So, now that you know the context, I will get to the point. A question: would you be willing to submit your letter to the Cannes Lions Advertising Festival? In the category ‘Titanium & Integrated’. I know, it costs a bit of money. But if that’s a problem, I’d be more than happy to front the fee on your behalf. You would be doing our industry an enormous favour. And if the jury really wants to make a statement, then I’m convinced you have a strong chance of taking the stage in Cannes. I know it’s not exactly the Cannes Film Festival. But hey, it is the same stage.
Sincere regards and hope to see you in Cannes!
(This article was published by Media Marketing: http://www.mm.be/nl/article/interviews/06-06-2013/10267/tim-driesen-open-letter-angelina-jolie )