Heart disease can strike and kill at any time. So, the British Heart Foundation is trying to hit viewers with its macabre message when they’re not expecting it.
A new campaign from MullenLowe puts long-form copy on coffee cups, as well as more traditional but mundane media like bus and subway posters—drawing the audience in with casual, innocent headlines that quickly turn dark, suggesting readers could drop dead at that exact moment, mid-sentence, without warning or even a prior diagnosis. (Scroll down to see that work.)
One short video ad illustrates that same point through the story of a wedding where an unexpected fate befalls the maid of honor, putting a serious damper on what should’ve been jubilant proceedings.
The fact that the doomed woman herself is narrating the argument heightens its effect, as she laments being unable to participate in the nuptials, and apologizes to her sister, the bride, for ruining the big day.
A second, longer video explains in more depth why this isn’t just fear-mongering. One genetic defect (hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, or HCM) can, if undiagnosed, cause otherwise seemingly young and healthy people, including women, to suddenly die. A father heartbreakingly remembers his teenage daughter, whom the disease suddenly killed. A doctor explains how the British Heart Foundation is funding research to fight the condition; an executive makes the plea for more donations.
Overall, it’s a smart tack to focus on the damage that the loss of a loved one does to families. Any looming mortal threat will appeal to self-preservation, but putting empathy front and center raises the emotional stakes considerably.
While it’s more of a soft-peddled terror than the kind of true prankvertising that might itself actually one day send some poor soul into cardiac arrest, it might risk alienating some people who just want to drink their coffee and stagger to work in peace, without being told the penalty of not donating to a good cause might be an instant and untimely death.