Bioethics Blogs

SickKids’ New Ad Campaign: Fighting words?

Michael Orsini and Anne McGuire offer a critical disability studies perspective on the Hospital for Sick Children’s latest ad campaign.

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It is, no doubt, visually arresting. And, of course, that is the point. The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) launched its flashy, multi-million dollar ad campaign this weekend with a two-minute video, titled “Anthem,” that is a virtual orgy of images and sound.

Set against Donnie Daydream’s rap song “Undeniable”, the video is a discombobulating mix of children clad in war paint, blood oozing from orifices, an exploding cast, the suffocating hum of children underwater, muscular, bench-pressing male bodies, a mountain of twisted metal wheelchairs, and much more. And in case you missed the war metaphors, there are images of soldiers on a pseudo-battlefield carrying bayonets and armour-clad knights charging headlong toward their opponent, a throwaway perhaps to Game of Thrones’ enthusiasts. The phrase “SICK ISN’T WEAK” lights up the screen, followed quickly by “WEAK FIGHTS BACK.”

The campaign message is very clear: there is no room for weakness in the face of disability or illness.

Gone are the days of pitiful images of long faces and sorrowful music that tugs at the heartstrings. The children featured in this ad campaign don’t want your sympathy. They are brave foot soldiers girding for battle; all they need is your money to fund the war against a raft of conditions that affect them – cancer, kidney failure, cystic fibrosis, autism. In a cynical age in which we are beset by compassion fatigue, advertising campaigns need to grab viewers by the throat.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.