Ice Bucket Challenge ALS Ads

The copywriter's nightmare: Motor Neurone Disease ad gaffe threatens non-donors with the condition


By John McCarthy, Opinion Editor

June 3, 2015 | 4 min read

An ad from the Motor Neurone Disease (MND) Association looking to build on the success of last year's ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has been widely misinterpreted by commuters.

Ads mounted in UK train stations were looking to spark discourse on social media around the hashtag #LastSummer. However, the way the story of 34-year-old Michael Smith was told irked readers, with the copy making it sound like there is a causal link between not participating in the Ice Bucket Challenge and being diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease.

The ad (pictured) read: "Last summer I was the only person I knew who didn’t do the ice bucket challenge. Five months later I was diagnosed with motor neurone disease."

The campaign was widely mocked by social media users.

Chris James, director of external affairs at the MND Association, said: “We thought it was powerful and poignant, and Michael, and his family, were all keen to share it too with as wide an audience as possible.

"At no point did anyone involved in the poster campaign development think that ‘bad karma’ would be the interpretation of Michael’s poster quote."

Three ads were erected as part of the campaign, and these are much harder to misinterpret.

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