Thursday, April 23, 2009

Showing off your organs on the Internet

Our Agency bean counter suggested I check out a new campaign for organ and tissue donation at 'Awesome cause', I thought. But I wasn't quite prepared for what I saw.

After a long load that showed various organ facts, a smiling, shirtless young man appears with a dotted line down his sternum. He smiles, blinks, and tells you to click on his "cool tattoo". Of course, once you do that his chest peels open to reveal his functioning internal organs with recycling symbols on them. If you haven't clicked away screaming in terror by this point, he proceeds to give you a guided tour of his upper body anatomy and explains how each part can help people after you die.

Creepy site, but an attention-getter to be sure. And it's aimed at young Canadians, who have grown up on grossout humour in advertising and cartoons, so it can't be all that freaky to its targets.

As an older guy (well out of the target demographic) it reminded me of the "Visible Man" and "Visible Woman" dolls of the late '70s, that you assembled and had transparent chests so you could see all the detailed organs within. But at least those dman things didn't talk back to me!

So who did it? According to Marketing, Trillium, Ontario’s governmental agency overseeing organ and tissue donation, developed the Recycle Me campaign over the last year with Narrative Advocacy Media, a division of Toronto creative agency Bensimon Byrne. (The site was developed by Mighty Digital, Bensimon Byrne’s digital and design team.)

Organ and tissue donation is a serious issue. According to CTV's coverage of the campaign:

Every three days, someone dies waiting for an organ transplant and nearly 1,700 patients in Ontario are on a transplant waiting list. One organ donor can save up to eight lives and enhance the lives of up to 75 others through tissue donation.

I haven't been able to find official links to any of the drive-to-web campaign creative for this site, not even on BB's own online portfolio, so I'll have to quote Marketing again for a description:

Traffic is driven to the site by an online, out-of-home and transit campaign.

One transit execution advertises the fictitious Kidney Depot, a “one-stop renal shop” that offers free installation. Copy at the bottom of the ad says “If organs and tissue were this easy to find, we wouldn’t need donors.”

“Coming soon” construction site wraps for the fake organ store are also going up in cities across the province, including Toronto, Hamilton and Thunder Bay.

Trillium has also started a Twitter feed authored by a lung to drive social media users to the site.

I can't even locate them on Twitter. (No "recycleme", and too many people named Lung.) :(

So, will it work? As of this writing, the site has 580 new members. These aren't legal donation signatories, by the way, but simply "pledges" who are honour bound to do the requisite paperwork. As for myself, what I find most unsettling is that the hog of a site slows down the performance of this hand-me-down production Mac I use at work. I actually had to leave the site just to write this blog.

I sincerely hope that this social marketing campaign achieves its objective of making young people more aware and active in organ donation. They're certainly a well-meaning bunch. But will their famous feelings of immortality prevent them from planning for their own deaths, even if it will save a life? I'm not sure. But at least they'll get to see their parents grossed out by advertising that (if the research was done right) only they "get", and that will get them talking. It's a start.


  1. Tom, there's a hoarding poster for the campaign at the corner of Bank and Somerset. It actually stopped me in my tracks as I was walking past yesterday. The concepts is a very retail-y ad that insinuates you can buy organs cheaply at the supermarket. Of course, if it was that easy to replace organs, we wouldn't need to donate, would we. I loved it.

    The site is too slow, but I really like the concept. As you probably know, my 22 year-old nephew was killed in a car accident last month. He donated his organs to Trillium. That final act is providing comfort to his parents and, of course, life to the recipients.

    I know that his friends, who now have a reason to think organ donation, would find this site interesting, relevant, and a cool way to think about organ donation.

    If it raises awareness and gets people thinking about organ donation it's worthwhile.

    Pity it's a bandwidth hog, though.

  2. Thanks for taking teh time to comment, Jake. I'll have to get a pic of that poster and add it to the blog later. I couldn't find anything suitable online.

    Thanks as well for the deeply personal insight.

  3. It's a really neat application of the new video overlay features Adobe introduced in Flash 8's On2 video codec.

    On a funnier note, he seems to be really anxious at people seeing his organs, look how fast his lungs are breathing!