“We have a wonderful public-private partnership with the pharmaceutical industry who are donating all the drugs, and we have great technical experts that actually help to ensure that these drugs get to the people that require them. So now we need to create the movement to ensure that it’s seeded in the public consciousness, and that enables us to influence policy and get more money for the cause for essentially a voiceless community.” – Dr. Neeraj Mistry, managing director of the Global Network for Neglected Tropical Diseases, at the Social Good Summit
Yesterday, at the Social Good Summit (SGS) in New York City, the Global Network had a phenomenal opportunity to join innovative and inspiring leaders in technology, media and policy from all over the world to discuss how we can accelerate progress on development issues such as poverty, education, equal rights, girls and women, and climate change by 2030.
We were honored to be part of that fascinating conversation hosted by the 92 Street Y, Mashable, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, among others, by speaking on a panel, “Is shock value a way to spur social good?” Our presenters, Dr. Neeraj Mistry, managing director of the Global Network; David Harris, executive creative director of Draftfcb in London; and Peter Koechley, co-founder of Upworthy, shared how our END7 “Celebrity Shocker” video relied on raw emotion, celebrity engagement, social media – and of course shock value – to catapult awareness for NTDs and prompt thousands of people to take action.
Neeraj began by talking about the two ways in which people essentially react: emotionally and rationally. On the one hand, people react with their guts, knowing how they feel about something immediately. Conversely, sometimes people react slowly about something and are able to make calculated decisions in response. With this in mind, Neeraj explained, the Global Network “decided to fight the [NTD] cause on both fronts.”
Only minutes into the panel, we discovered very few people in the audience actually knew about NTDs and how they afflict over a billion people worldwide, most of whom live on less than $1.25 a day. In fact, just a few hands out of hundreds of people went up when Neeraj asked about their familiarity with them!
So, just as we introduced NTDs to hundreds of thousands of people earlier this year with our END7 “Celebrity Shocker” video, we grabbed people’s attention at SGS by playing the video for them. What we saw and heard was so moving – and quite telling: gasps, hands over people’s mouths, jaws dropping and sheer sadness on their faces.
David then provided insights about the creative process behind END7 and our PSA. He explained, “Our biggest challenge was that these aren’t very user friendly images to put in front of a public. And our challenge was really that no one knows what these diseases are.” The key for him, therefore, was to “create a little bit of suspense and engagement” that would build empathy and emotions “that connect us and drive us to do something.”
Though END7 has an ambitious goal – seeing the end of the seven most common NTDs in seven years (by 2020) – it’s actually possible. As David said, “the really shocking thing is that there’s a cure for such a small amount of money.” For just 50 cents, we can treat and protect one person per year with a packet of pills donated by the pharmaceutical industry. “The idea is that anyone, in their small way, can contribute to the campaign,” David noted, and that we can all help alleviate widespread suffering and poverty caused by these horrific diseases with just a simple, small donation.
As Peter described, a successful public awareness campaign for any organization isn’t just about the creative assets, it’s also very much about the strategy behind sharing them, building an audience and encouraging people to act on what they’ve seen.
“The type of emotion matters,” Peter said, noting that a goal of campaigns should be to spur emotions that “get people to sit forward in your chair to do something.” These include outrage, shock, happiness and inspiration. Peter and others at Upworthy felt compelled to share the video because it not only hit on these powerful points but also that “if [treatment is] just 50 cents…we can help a few hundred thousand more people see this and help make a difference.”
Wrapping up the discussion, Neeraj noted that tackling NTDs is one of the most cost-effective public health interventions out there today. And, because NTDs are linked to many of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), if we address them, we can make improvements to many of the challenges other SGS presenters highlighted, such as water and sanitation, access to education, and maternal and child health.
“We see the END7 campaign as a vehicle to actually raise attention to these [neglected] communities, and once we mainstream that in our collective consciousness, like every movement, we’ll be able to tackle this issue.”
Thank you again to the Social Good Summit for inviting us to be part of this innovative and thought-provoking global discussion! We were inspired by so many presenters, including Malala, Magatte Wade, Barbara Bush, and so many others, and we look forward to seeing the resulting impact in the coming years!
Join us by learning more at end7.org and watching the panel below. Together, we can see the end.