It’s on the covers of magazines. It makes front-page headlines in newspapers. And it has segments devoted to it on television. Perhaps no issue in America affects as many families right now as autism does.
At our agency, BBDO, autism is an issue we care deeply about. It impacts many of us personally, our families and our clients. The odds of a child being diagnosed with autism, which our previous campaign focused on, are nothing short of staggering. But though it affects many of us in some way, there is still a lot of confusion and uncertainty around the signs of autism.
Our new campaign seeks to help parents identify the signs of autism at an early age, in an extremely personal and intimate way—by seeing parents witness these signs through the eyes of a child. As a parent, nothing is more important than the health and well-being of your child. If even the smallest thing doesn’t seem right, you immediately get to work trying to find the solution. So it’s only natural to find yourself wondering, “maybe it’s this” or “maybe it’s that.”
In our campaign, we position that “maybe?” as the only question you need to find out more about autism. We wanted the campaign to feel very honest and speak to parents in their language. We wanted parents to see themselves in the work and say, “That’s me. I’ve said those things.”
For television, we produced two spots that illustrate a sign of autism as well as the reaction of parents to that sign. The first spot, “Eye Contact,” is filmed from the perspective of the child as he avoids eye contact with his parents at all cost. The second spot, “Truck,” tells the story from the perspective of a toy truck that a little boy plays with incessantly. In both, we hear the parents rattle off a litany of “maybes” as they speculate about what the problem may be.
The effort continues in print, which combines powerful, insightful headlines with the intimate visuals of a child’s face. The goal of the print was to really convey the emotion these parents are feeling in an honest way while still educating them on the signs. It’s really nice work and has so far struck a chord with every parent we’ve shared it with. Working with our Hispanic agency partner, LatinWorks, we also created Spanish-language versions of the TV and print messages.
While we are extremely proud of all efforts and extensions of this campaign, our most noteworthy source of pride comes from a little girl named Madison. We were lucky enough, during the pre-production process of the print shoot, to find a little girl who had been diagnosed with autism and who was willing to be part of our production. The little girl, Madison, appears in two print ads, “Babbling” and “Eye Contact.”
Madison is living proof that our partnership with Autism Speaks and the Ad Council is making a difference. We hope our PSAs can serve as a source of encouragement for those parents who find themselves saying “maybe” at an early age.
Matthew Zaifert and Peter Alsante are both Associate Creative Directors at BBDO New York. In their 8 years at BBDO, they have worked on a variety of accounts such as Autism Speaks, AT&T, M&M’s, Kids Foot Locker, Snickers, and many others. Their work has been recognized by Cannes, One Show, D&AD and the Clios. As they both have people with autism in their lives, their work with Autism Speaks has been especially rewarding.