Celebrating strength in numbers
Every year, World Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Day brings together the global MS community to share stories, raise awareness and campaign for change. Its organisers, the MS International Federation, needed a new website and a creative campaign for 2015, to inspire more people to take action.
MS International Federation is a unique global network of 44 international member organisations, working across 90 countries.
They decided World MS Day 2015 was going to focus on access for people with MS. Not just access to diagnosis, treatment and support, but to buildings, travel and leisure facilities and to education, employment and political representation.
Our challenge was to come up with a campaign that would work equally well for all member organisations – whatever their size, location and budget. In some countries members have the resources to run TV ads, others barely have the resources to run an office.
Rather than focus directly on access, where people’s circumstances and experiences of MS would vary wildly, we looked a creative route that would resonate across countries and cultures.
We took the universal concepts of strength in numbers and strength in relationships, and used them to celebrate how people work together to support each other. World MS Day would be a chance for people to say thank you – to loved ones, friends, carers, health professionals, and anyone who helped them live with MS.
We needed symbols of strong relationships that avoided cliché and would work internationally. So we used illustrations of animals to represent the different ways humans work together to look after one another. We chose geese, which travel thousands of miles together, to represent the inner strength and unique journeys of people affected by MS.
Honeybees symbolise strength in numbers and hard work, while huddling penguins demonstrate teamwork, survival and co-operation.
One mistake we made was conveying strength in numbers with an illustration of ants. When we ran this past the global working group there were objections – in India, we learnt, you’d never compare someone to an ant.
We created an online toolkit with web banners, cards, flyers and posters, and encouraged people to share them in the run-up to World MS Day, and use them to thank and celebrate those who help them live with MS.
The website design involved some careful thought. It needed to be directly translated into five languages, including Arabic, which reads right to left, rather than left to right – something we hadn’t tackled before. And we had to add a Google Translate plug-in to allow access for users speaking other languages.
The key challenge for the site design was that it needed to be perfect for this year’s campaign and easily adaptable for future World MS Days. So we designed a modular site, making it simple to add content to different sections and quick and easy for the MS International Federation to update the site themselves.
IMPACT SO FAR…
When we evaluate the campaign after this year’s World MS Day on 27 May, we’ll be focusing on the number of people downloading and using the resources. We want to see as many member organisations as possible sharing, tweeting, blogging and raising awareness – and celebrating the people and organisations working together to break down the barriers to living with MS.