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VMLY&R Commerce on why it turned to retro ad jingles to help Alzheimers sufferers in Puerto Rico

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By The Drum | Editorial

November 30, 2023 | 6 min read

The Digital Industries Grand Prix, Audio and Healthcare winner saw VMLY&R Commerce work with SBS & Asociación de Alzheimer de Puerto Rico to create a novel way to manage Alzheimers disease. Here is the award-winning case study.

Example of the award-winning digital work

In 2022, studies made by the University of Miami indicate that people in Puerto Rico have a higher propensity for Alzheimer's. One of the reasons could be a genetic variant they have uncovered, making this disease the fourth leading cause of death in people over 65 with a four-time increase in the last 20 years.

Puerto Rican Alzheimer’s Association help support the almost 100,000 people living with the condition on the island and came to us with a brief to not only create awareness but a way to improve their lives.

We felt their long-standing relationship with Spanish Broadcasting System (SBS) - owner of the most important radio stations that have been part of the lives of Puerto Ricans for over 80 years was the place to do this.

Creative Idea

We turned famous jingles into a new, non-pharmacological, therapy to help people with Alzheimer’s; a disorder that slowly destroys memory, and eventually, the ability to carry out the simplest tasks.

Studies have shown that for those in the middle-stages of this disease, music from their past can reduce agitation and outbursts, whilst improving overall mood.

By working with SBS’s 80-year archive we identified the most famous advertising jingles of Puerto Rico’s past and used them as a palliative therapy for patients to bring back positive memories, remind them of their youth, and help soothe them during harder times. These songs designed to never be forgotten work as an immediate time machine for those who long to remember.

To make sure each person could experience their happiest times, caregivers could create personalized jingle playlists based on their patient’s birthdate and integrate them each day as part of their care-plan.

Strategy

Alzheimer’s disease, as all types of dementia, is a terminal illness. Over 100,000 people in Puerto Rico live with the condition and can become agitated or aggressive as the disease gets worse.

Puerto Rican Alzheimer’s Association partnered with SBS to help improve their lives, and their overall mood using music, as it’s already a known therapy for care givers to use.

Our strategy was to use the radio station’s truly unique 80-year archive of famous advertising jingles as a new type of therapy, because of the fact they are literally designed to be remembered.

By creating a non-pharmacological route of care, available online for caregivers to use with people living with the condition, we could improve all their lives, for free with a very low barrier for access.

Execution

First, we analyzed over 80 years of ads in SBS’s radio archive to identify the most popular jingles in Puerto Rico.

Then, we created jingletherapy.org, a website that generates unique jingle playlists based on the birthdate of a person with Alzheimer’s. The platform allowed caregivers to improve the treatment by identifying the tunes that help that patient remember, rest, and ease their daily symptoms.

We promoted it from Feb 10th to March 7th of 2023 during the breaks of the four major radio stations in Puerto Rico, by replacing regular ads with old and famous jingles, which both grabbed attention and immediately showed how the therapy works in care homes playing the radio during the day.

All this drove caregivers to the website to start the treatment, creating a way to bring back meaningful memories to soothe their now.

Results

Jingle Therapy was created with the goal of helping Alzheimer’s patients improve their overall mood, behaviour and cognition.

Less than two months after launch, over 600 patients were reached, accumulating over 50,000 hours of therapy.

Significant improvement was observed in memory, orientation, depression and anxiety in both mild (NPI scale) and moderate (HAD scale) cases. It also helped with delirium, hallucinations, agitation, irritability, and language disorders in the group with moderate Alzheimer’s Disorder.

The effect on cognitive measures was significant after only 4 Jingle Therapy sessions.

To date, 12 partnerships with health institutions around the island were made to use it as a regular therapy.

The effort was covered by the main media outlets in Puerto Rico and the Caribbean, generating over 30 million PR media impressions, driving more people to jingletherapy.org to help Alzheimer’s patients improve their lives.

Cultural Context

Music is one the biggest passion points for Puerto Ricans. You can see it reflected in the number of famous artists from this small island, like Hector Lavoe, Ricky Martin and today, Bad Bunny. It’s also reflected in the fact that Puerto Rico is the country with the most radio stations per square mile in the world.

These are the two main reasons why over the decades, advertising jingles have been so popular. Brands like Coca Cola and artists like El Gran Combo, had created memorable pieces that impacted pop culture, making these short and catchy songs earn a special place in the Island’s collective memory.

Bringing them back not only helped Alzheimer’s patients to find a new palliative treatment but it helped all remember happy moments from their youth.

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