Earlier this week, ‘The Drum’ called it ‘the copywriter’s nightmare.’ A campaign poster launched by the Motor Neurone Disease (MND) Association has got people talking for all the wrong reasons.
Three posters were released for MND awareness month in June, designed to get social media talking about #LastSummer. The idea was to tell the stories of MND sufferers and build on the success of the ice bucket challenge. One of the posters though has caused a bit of controversy through its wording:
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 Drum’ article said it had been ‘widely misinterpreted by commuters.’ I don’t think it was misinterpreted. Commuters got the gist of it just fine. And if the majority of people misinterpret something, then you have to take responsibility for misrepresenting.
The implied link between Michael not taking part in the ice bucket challenge and being diagnosed with motor neurone disease is more than a little threatening. It’s the result of clumsy wording on the copywriter’s part, particularly when you read Michael’s full story and find out why he didn’t take part in the ice bucket challenge. It’s hard to believe that the charity signed this one off. How did nobody spot the sinister tone that we all did?
In all this I feel bad for Michael, a real, camera-shy person going through a seriously challenging time. ‘His’ words have been assembled badly by the copywriter, and are being ridiculed on social media. As copywriters, don’t we have a responsibility to take care of the people we are writing about/on behalf of?