Donate Life Boldly Launches Powerful Film About 'The World's Biggest A--hole'
Forbes | August 5, 2016 | Will Burns, Contributor
I have a treat for you. It’s a new film from Donate Life America with the mission of convincing Millennials to become organ donors. Not a small challenge, but one met with a controversial, compelling, creative and strategically brilliant film. And a film that took real guts to approve.
Give it a watch and I’ll break it down.
A strategy of contrast.
What I love most about this film is the strategy. By exaggerating how bad a person can be in life, yet still be considered a hero by donating organs, Donate Life dramatically magnifies the appeal of organ donation.
It’s this contrast between Coleman Sweeney’s “asshole-ness” and his supremely kind act of donating his organs that makes the film so compelling and watchable.
Further, this same contrast makes the viewer more open to the well-trodden altruistic message of donating organs. To think that this “asshole’s” liver is now allowing that nice father, Stan, to be around for his wife and kids. To think that this “asshole’s” heart is now allowing that teacher, Miranda, to teach for 25 more years. To think that this “asshole’s” tendons went to a wounded warrior, Sgt. Donahue, allowing him to walk again.
I suspect it would have been tempting for the client to start the argument with the altruistic message. That donating your organs can breathe new life into people. Even use examples like the ones above. But it just wouldn’t have been as compelling as having viewers ponder this “asshole” now living inside all these good people, allowing them to continue to live.
Even an “asshole” can be saved.
There is a subtext to this film that I believe makes it even more powerful. That is, no matter how bad you are in life, you can still be saved. Donate Life positions organ donation as at least a form of character-salvation, if not spiritual.
And let’s admit it. There’s a little Coleman Sweeney in all of us, right?
Consider Millennials. They’re out of school, they’re finally free, they’re having fun, sometimes too much fun, relationships, regrets, craziness, learning, cheating, growing, everything.
We’ve all been there.
Of course, no one (including Millennials) has ever been quite the “asshole” that Coleman Sweeney was, but we can still relate. We have all made mistakes, sinned, or done thoughtless and stupid things we regret.
And it’s in that emotional empathy that this film swirls.
If “the world’s biggest asshole” can be redeemed by donating his organs, then just imagine my redemption, being only some small percent of the ”asshole” Coleman Sweeney was.
The film’s final super says, “Even an asshole can save a life.” But to me the subtext is, “Even an asshole can be saved (if he donates his organs).”
A much bigger and more motivating message. But there’s one more question.
Would you have approved this film?
To me, the real lesson here for CMOs is this: if the creative idea is on strategy, then by god approve it no matter how uncomfortable it makes you feel.
This film says “asshole” five times. Six if you count the super at the end. The name of the spot is “The World’s Biggest Asshole.” We’ve got a main character who steals candy from kids, throws coins at strippers, beeps at old ladies crossing the street, and countless other offenses.
Plenty of reasons to kill this puppy (literally). And I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that Donate Life is getting piles of complaints from offended folks with too much time on their hands, donors, maybe even board members.
But this client believed in the strategy and wisely saw it through. Yes, I’m sure there were discussions about how important it is to be edgy with Millennials. But that’s not the only reason this particular film is this kind of “asshole edgy.” It’s edgy because the film needed massive contrast (from “asshole” to “hero”) to magnify the message of organ donation for Millennials.
Fortified likely by this client’s belief that this film, with this strategy, would motivate people to save lives through organ donation.
Will Burns is CEO of Ideasicle - see our new divisionIdeasicle: She for marketing to women. Will is also the owner of Tini Grails, an online martini store. Follow him @Twitter @WillOBurns.
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