The International Diabetes Federation has released its first public service announcement in the form of an animated video, focused on raising awareness about the seriousness of diabetes and its complications. The 54-second promo spot released this past week is called "Diabetes Kills."
Makes you want to click right on over to view it, right? Yeah, me neither...
But I did, of course.
To be honest, my first thought when watching the video: Why is IDF channeling the Death Eaters from Harry Potter?
Maybe this is on my mind because I recently spent a week at Disney World and we went to the Harry Potter theme park over at Universal, but I think those "dark clouds" that come out of nowhere to attack people look a helluva-lot like the "Death Eaters," as I'm sure you'll agree.
The IDF's "D-Cloud"...
And from Harry Potter...
In all seriousness, with that tombstone at the end and all, I wonder whether this ad strikes the right tone in what we're trying to accomplish as a community. There's been a lot of talk in the D-Community through the years about appropriate diabetes marketing campaigns and whether scare tactics are appropriate or effective. Remember the JDRF ad with Piper, the little girl who was featured in some big newspapers as "one of 20 who could die from a low blood sugar?" Or the New York public health ads that showcased amputations as result of too much sugar intake?
Now, the IDF joins those resorting to shock campaigns to make a point.
That point is, according to the IDF:
"Challeng(ing) the public to look at diabetes in a different light, underlining the serious consequences of the disease that can often go unnoticed if it is not managed and treated properly. The powerful visuals also promote the importance of staying healthy to protect our future."
Personally, I really don't think this video PSA hits what it's trying to accomplish here.
The IDF fails to distinguish or make any mention of different types of diabetes, which seems like the first big fault. The PSA message is "Diabetes Kills, So Watch Out!" but this big shout-out on staying healthy and prevention certainly doesn't do anything when it comes to type 1 -- which can come out of nowhere and is essentially unpreventable. Even for Type 2, you have to ask yourself what this animation actually tells people what they can do about prevention or motivating them to feel empowered to take charge of their health.
Sure, we can't overlook the stats on mortality rates and complications that can result from diabetes. But "can" is the operative word here; nothing's set in stone (or a tombstone), as the IDF promo seems to say.
Specifically: "Diabetes doesn't kill people; UNCONTROLLED diabetes does."
Of course, this comes from the oft-quoted hallmark line of Dr. Bill Polonsky: "Well-managed diabetes is the leading cause of... NOTHING."
We all know, or should know at this point in 2013, that diabetes isn't a death sentence. We have the tools and medicines and know-how to manage it. Yes, in hard-hit low-income parts of the world it's a different story and it's an outrage that lack of insulin is contributing to so many deaths in those areas... but that's not the focus of this new ad. No, we're hitting at Americans on social media. And what are we saying to them? Nothing the least bit empowering, that's for sure!
When queried, here's what the IDF's media and PR coordinator Sara Webber had to say:
The aim of the PSA is to let the general public know that diabetes, both type 1 and type 2, is a global health threat. We want to reach out to the public and decision-makers who can lobby to improve healthcare systems for people with diabetes, who can help remove barriers to care and who can increase research funding for a cure. This is our first step to engage the public beyond the diabetes community and we encourage them to learn more by clicking on the link at the end of the PSA.
Regarding the South American community, they are one of the most reactive and valued communities we work with at IDF. They are active in all aspects of the WDD campaign and have been particularly active in our Take a Step movement. Whilst there have been negative reactions from this community, we have also managed to speak with our contacts there and convey that this is a message for the general public, which has made them more understanding of the reasons behind the PSA.
Interesting that South Africa is leading the outcry here...
Again, this confuses me about the ad being geared toward the general public. If we're trying to get a message out about the seriousness of diabetes to a broader government and non-D public, then why is the IDF tagging those of us within the Diabetes Community who focus largely on the population already living with diabetes? Seems a little skewed, IMHO.
And where is the line between "scaring" people into awareness and being too gentle or upbeat, so that folks don't grasp how dangerous diabetes can be? Especially when there are all these other terminal and life-threatening conditions, and commercials that show disfigured faces or lung cancer-effected voices? No wonder the public at large thinks those diseases are "more important." It's tough to balance all that.
My mind goes back to something to D-Dad and fellow blogger Tom Karlya wrote earlier in the year about D-messaging and a JDRF commercial that never aired. The ad opened up with a stone engraver pounding away as Mary Tyler Moore's voice-over stated that "this" needs to be made a reality. Then, the camera pulls back and we see the word "DIABETES" on a tombstone as Mary's voice says she's referring to "A death to diabetes."
As Tom wrote, parents screamed about the deathly tone of the commercial and it never went live, with JDRF instead reverting back to the cute faces of kids with diabetes.
Where do we draw the line when trying to communicate the seriousness of diabetes?
I'm of the opinion that we do need to do better in educating people about the basics diabetes. We want government officials and the general public to understand this condition, and know there are differences between type 1 and type 2 diabetes. And that the misconceptions and stereotypes are just that...
To make this clear, we may need to sometimes take bold steps to ensure that with new messaging is heard.
But is "Diabetes Kills" the core message we're looking to get out there? Is that what we want to be top of mind?
Here's what our friend Manny Hernandez thinks about the promo and what the IDF has created.
At the Diabetes Hands Foundation, we have always seen IDF as a beacon that we've aligned our views and goals with, being a representative of people touched by diabetes worldwide. However, when I first saw this video, I felt profoundly disappointed as a patient and as a diabetes advocate. While I understand that they want to appeal to the general public and governments about the urgency of the diabetes epidemic, not only does the message in the video fail to do this, it conveys a very dis-empowering message -- one devoid of any kind of hope."
"I invite our friends at IDF to reconsider this approach, thinking how people around the world feel when they are fist diagnosed with this condition. What if the message you first hear about it is that diabetes kills? Is that the first thing they want people to hear? Our anger about government inaction needs to be driven differently. Painting diabetes all rosey is far from what we are talking about, but fear-driving tactics don't work either and can ultimately alienate a very important support platform IDF has built up over the years."
We couldn't agree more, Manny! Despite the confusion I have about the ad itself, I'm mostly worried that people I know will see this and think, "Oh, Mike, I'm so sorry that you're going to die from diabetes...
"I'm not immortal and have no interest (unlike Lord Voldemort of Harry Potter fame), but one thing is for certain: Diabetes isn't necessarily going to lead to my end. I could very well get hit by an ice cream truck crossing the street later today.
I want people to know that I am not going to die because some evil D-cloud comes out of the sky and grabs me. That there's no guarantee that diabetes is going to take me at all.
Even though my diabetes does sometimes feel like it's swirling around me like the animated PSA cloud, that doesn't translate into certain death. If I thought that, I'd quit my job at the 'Mine and just give up right here and now.