For parents to be, deciding to have a child is a huge, life-changing event. Whether it’s a surprise baby, or a planned one, the moment the precarious first trimester passes, and the news can be broadcast to friends and family is one of elation. It’s when things get real.
But just as early pregnancy anxiety gives way to ohmygod-we’re-actually-having-a-baby excitement, pregnant parents are faced with tough decision: to screen for genetic disorders like Down syndrome. If tests come back normal, relief returns. If not, and it’s possible that the unborn child has Down syndrome, a whole new set of immediate and difficult decisions will need to be made. Usually, in cases like this, people turn to the internet to answer their lingering medical questions, which, as we know, is a terrible idea.
Rather than leaving those desperate for information to the wilds of WebMD or Wikipedia, the Canadian Down Syndrome Society and agency FCB Canada created “Down Syndrome Answers,” a campaign driven by Google Adwords that brings a very personal perspective to the quest for answers. When parents search the most common questions related to the genetic disorder, the top result is a video of a person with Down syndrome who personally answers that question.
“When parents learn their unborn child has Down syndrome, they only have about 10 days to decide whether to proceed with the pregnancy,” says FCB Canada Chief Creative Officer Nancy Crimi-Lamanna, noting that both doctors and online searches result in clinical information that’s at odds with the emotions tied to a stressful situation. So instead, the agency decided to reframe the question and provide answers with a more human touch.
“[We asked] what if these questions were answered by the people who know Down Syndrome best? People living with Down Syndrome every day,” she says. “Just by casting real people with Down Syndrome, we’re dispelling some myths about the genetic disorder.”
Crimi-Lamanna says the goal is to get parents to pause and seek a second opinion about Down syndrome before they make “one of the most important decisions of their lives.”
Too often people with genetic disorders like Down syndrome are viewed by their needs as opposed to their successes and the videos in this campaign highlight the individuals for the full people that they are, which is key when trying to build understanding and empathy in people who are potentially facing having a child with the disorder.
While the campaign was intended to help prospective parents understand Down syndrome, Crimi-Lamanna says the exercise was hugely beneficial to the participants as well. “They found it incredible empowering to be given a voice and a platform to answer questions people wonder about them every day,” she says. “It answered a human need for them on a fundamental level.”