We React to the New CCFA Ad Campaign

The new Crohns & Colitis Foundation of America’s ad is one that I find to be a bit controversial. I do believe I am in the minority with this opinion but I do want to spend a little time explaining why I am not a big advocate of the CCFA’s new ad. I want to say for the record that this is not a reflection on the CCFA as a whole and I do hope that anyone who reads this post does truly understand that. It is merely my opinion about a campaign relating to a disease that has impacted my life in ways so near and dear to me that I feel a strong desire to speak up about it.

The CCFA’s new ad campaign is called “Escape the Stall” (www.ccfa.org/escapethestall/). I believe one of the biggest voices of this ad is an IBD sufferer and a well known actress, Amy Brenneman’ whom I love from Private Practice and who some of you might know from NYPD Blue and Judging Amy.

This ad is supposed to show the public that you never know who in your life has a form of inflammatory bowel disease (ulcerative colitis or crohns disease). This ad is supposed to bring these devastating diseases out of the darkness and into the daylight. I would like to believe that the intent behind this ad is to take some of the shame of living with a chronic illness that revolves around bathroom issues. After all, “escape the stall” does have a nice ring to it and to be honest it did make me laugh when I first heard it.

Here is my issue. Ulcerative colitis and crohns disease are NOTHING TO LAUGH ABOUT! These illnesses are devastating. These diseases are torturous. IBD is heartbreaking in so many ways. So why are we making light of it? Yes, I understand that adding a little humor to a serious situation can help sometimes. But not in this case! In this case what this ad campaign is doing is taking what is already in the majority of people’s minds which is that IBD is no more severe than a stomach bug, and reinforcing it. I know with all my heart and soul the amazing people who came up with this campaign didn’t intend to do that…obviously. But it does.

I am still waiting to see some pictures of IBD patients at their worst. Why are we so afraid to show people what people suffering from ulcerative colitis or crohns disease REALLY go through? If I had any pictures of me really suffering I would blast them all over the internet myself so the public could take a good hard look at what these diseases can do to a person. We have no issues as a society seeing pictures and videos of cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy and therefore, we as a culture understand how truly devastating being stricken with cancer is.

Why are we as a community so afraid to show the world what patients suffering from IBD really go through? It’s great to make poop and bathroom jokes but enough is enough. Crohns disease and ulcerative colitis are not funny. The public is so uneducated as it is.

So I ask you…. as advocates…as a foundation who is trying to bring about education and awareness to the public…as people who are trying to make life easier for those who are struggling…Why are we making light of it?

Check out my friend Sara’s blog as she has a lot to say on this topic as well http://www.inflamed-and-untamed.com/post/40183224070/we-react-to-the-new-ccfa-ad-campaign

  • val0525

    So well said!!

  • http://www.forwardisapace.com Lauren @ Forward is a Pace

    Have you read the New York Times piece about it? It does a good job explaining why CCFA chose to do the campaign this way. I was reluctant at first, but I’m on board now. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/08/business/media/crohns-and-colitis-foundation-begins-new-campaign.html?_r=0

    Also, when non-profits are trying to get donated ad space for PSAs, many, many networks will not air them if they are too “scary.” A PSA campaign is no good if you can’t get anyone to show it. I have never seen a cancer PSA that shows patients at their worst, undergoing chemo. On television shows, like Parenthood this season? Yes. But the ads from the American Cancer Society or Komen Foundation? Nope.

    I understand where you and Sara are coming from, I do. But you have to start somewhere. And I think this is a good start.

    • http://risaroo86.wordpress.com rissy26

      I have seen the NY times link… and it does do a good job and I do understand where they are coming from too. I just still don’t like it and think it could have been done a different way.

      • http://www.forwardisapace.com Lauren @ Forward is a Pace

        The text below the images does a good job explaining the seriousness of the disease, too. (In the print ads.) Like I said, I get where you’re coming from. But I don’t think a campaign with NG tubes and people popping pills and getting treatments would be successful — it wouldn’t get aired.

  • http://www.forwardisapace.com Lauren @ Forward is a Pace

    Also, I’m fully aware that working at CCFA makes me biased. I was hesitant about the bathroom idea when we first heard about the new campaign. But the reasoning behind it ultimately won me over.

    8 years ago, when I was newly diagnosed and embarrassed about my disease, this would have made me feel less alone and more willing to talk about it.

    • http://www.facebook.com/sara.d.ringer Sara Ringer

      I understand both sides Lauren but I still lean towards hating the whole bathroom ad thing. I see the marketing reasons behind it truly and get that people shy away from the whole “too scary” thing. But there is that fire inside me that hates that we are always minimalized to a “poop disease” when so much more is involved. I know that there is no one size fits all ad out there that would accurately describe everyone’s experience with IBD but to me if someone saw this ad who had no clue they would be led where everyone else is led and that is to believe that the disease is like IBS. I think all of us can see both sides to some extent. I don’t know…bathroom humor and IBD has always bothered me in some way.

      • http://www.forwardisapace.com Lauren @ Forward is a Pace

        I don’t like bathroom humor and IBD either. I hate it, actually. I don’t think these ads are trying to be funny at all. All of the copy on the bottom of the print ads has hard, cold facts about IBD.

        I’m not saying people shy away from scary things — I’m saying networks will not run the ads. CCFA worked with an experienced ad agency who has done a lot of work with PSA campaigns. More “serious” ads are no good if nobody can see them.

  • Jodi

    I can see both sides but totally understand how you feel. People SHOULD know about the devastating effect this disease has. Both you and Sara have very well written and thoughtful,moving arguements. I of, course, lean more toward your “side.”
    Continue to be an advocate and make sure everyone sees all sides of the story.

  • Kate

    I agree :( it is sad because IBD is so poorly understood by the general public and this was such a great opportunity missed.

    I feel like this is common though, to only show people a sanitized, palatable version of illness so people don’t get too upset by it. For example, I want to punch someone every time I see a commercial for St. Jude’s children’s cancer hospital. Every kid they have ever put in their advertisements has looked normal and perky and cute except for the fact that they are bald. I knew a teen girl with cancer who was really sick, she wasn’t bald but had awful patchy tufts of hair, her skin was gray, she was super bloated and overweight with a bug puffy face from prednisone. Why not show that? it’s like we can’t address diseases for the hell they really are because it might upset someone. I think with diseases that are potentially fatal, people at least understand the consequence that you could die from it. But they don’t understand anything else. With chronic diseases, they just don’t understand anything at all because no one, not even the CCFA apparently, want to be real about it

  • http://thedisneypoint.blogspot.com Rosanne

    Hey Marisa,
    From a UC patient perspective, I 100% get where you’re coming from. From a PR perspective (because that’s what I do for a living) I get where the CCFA is coming from too. I really like the new campaign because people are talking about it, and that’s the ultimate goal. The New York Times has approximately 1.6 million readers…and that’s just in print. Think about how many people read that article on NYTimes.com. It’s not meant to tell the whole story of UC and CD. You and I both know that we can spend hours upon hours telling just our stories about living with IBD. Nonetheless, the hope is that the ad will catch someone’s eye, make them remember it, and get them researching what IBD really is online or by talking to their doctors.
    For example, I can’t think of anything any LESS funny than breast cancer, but when you hear “Save the ta-tas” you think of the “pink” movement. Funny saying about a serious topic, and it gets people talking.
    Just my perspective. As always, love your blog :)

  • http://aguywithcrohns.wordpress.com A Guy With Crohn’s

    I have to say I was neither for or against the ad until I read this. I know the bathroom is a big part of an IBDers life..but there is so much more to UC and CD like you said. I also know the backstory to CCFA and the ad. When all is said and done, I think I am also against the adds. Why don’t they show someone in a hospital bed with an NG tube. Why not show someone in a wheelchair to sick to move thanks to arthritis. Why not show someone getting a Remi infusion. I feel like they are hiding people behind the stall door when we should be throwing our faces out there for everyone to see.

    I have been lucky. I haven’t gone through as much as many other people. But I know the dark side to the disease. I have seen it take lives away. It is not fun and to make jokes about it is not cool. We can joke to cheer ourselves up…but let’s not joke about the disease because it is serious. I wish everyone would learn that already.

    And now, I think I might have a post to write of my own. Thanks Marisa for the inspiration :)

  • Pingback: My Take on the Escape The Stall Ads « A Guy With Crohn's()

  • mitch

    My daughter asked my opinion on what I thought about this ad campaign because there seems to be a bit of controversy within the “community”. As a sufferer from ulcerative colitis for many years leading up to a permanent ostomy, she has endured endless trauma from 14 surgeries, 250 nights in the hospital, endless procedures etc… therefore, although I have not physically experienced IBD, I consider myself an expert.

    What is the essence of Crohn’s and Colitis? Really think about it… it’s about having to run your life in a stressful, high anxiety manner revolving around going to the bathroom. I listened all night for years, as my daughter ran to the bathroom 10-20 times. I saw her basically stop eating because eating meant going to the bathroom. I slept every one of those 250 nights in the hospital with her and during the colitis period of her hospitalization, she woke me every 20 minutes ALL NIGHT LONG to help her get to a toilet because she had IV’s in her and she was worried about not making it in time. I’ve had to pull into dirty gas stations so she could run in. I saw her hide from her friends for years because she couldn’t talk about her “bathroom issues” or she didn’t want to be out or stay over a friends house or go to a party and that was all about the anxiety and stress of worrying about going to the bathroom. In my humble opinion, Crohn’s and Colitis is about living every second of your life in a panic about having to go to the bathroom or, even worse, not making it to the bathroom in time and that is what these ads are all about.

    If you see Dennis Leary or Danny Aiello in ads for the Lustgarten Foundation which does research to find a cure for pancreatic cancer what you see is a spokesman who has a friend or a son who died from this cancer and they’re asking you for your help. The St. Jude Hospital does show child cancer patients and yes, they are bald but don’t look that sick but…you get the point. Human nature would not allow us to watch these ads if they showed patients at their worst. We all have a good idea what a cancer patient goes through but we sure don’t want to see it.

    Having IBD means going through all the horrible experiences that Sarah and Marisa and thousands of others in the community go through every day. Its terrible, it’s tragic, it’s heartbreaking , it’s the f’ing worst but the Crohn’s Colitis Foundation isn’t going to put those terrible aspects of these illnesses out there. It won’t work and as Lauren points out, it will never get shown.

    So, in a quirky way they have portrayed the essence of what ruins lives every day and they show, very clearly, that these illnesses don’t discriminate. Imagine being a bride in a beautiful white dress worrying about having an accident!! Imagine how hard it is growing up with it or playing sports or just plain living in a constant state of panic that you’ll shit in your clothes. That’s what they’re trying to do to raise awareness and I think, in this somewhat silly way, they have gotten to the core of life with IBD.

    Nothing negates all of your suffering. No one can truly understand how hard it is to try and “be normal” unless you live it but in an effort to bring awareness and to drive people to support their foundation…I think they’ve done an ok job.

    • http://www.forwardisapace.com Lauren @ Forward is a Pace

      Mitch, consider this a virtual standing ovation. Thank you for this comment! It made my night.

  • http://www.honestmedicine.com/ Julia Schopick

    I can see why so many people with Crohn’s disease are upset that these new ads make light of a disease that is filled with so much pain and suffering. I hope you and your readers won’t find me off-topic for writing here about a treatment that has been shown to be effective for many people with the disease: Low Dose Naltrexone, or LDN. LDN is a low-dose, off-label generic form of a drug (naltrexone) which was approved by the FDA in the mid-1980s for another use entirely. At around the same time, a cutting-edge, Harvard-educated physician named Bernard Bihari (MD) found that, in very small doses (hence, the name LOW dose naltrexone), this drug was effective at stopping the progression of many autoiummne conditions, including Crohn’s disease. Studies of LDN for the treatment of Crohn’s have been conducted by researchers at Penn State. Among them: “Low-Dose Naltrexone Therapy Improves Active Crohn’s Disease,” published in 2007 in the “American Journal of Gastroenterology,” and “LDN for Children With Moderate/Severe Crohn’s Disease,” published in 2012 in “Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology.” As the author of the book, “Honest Medicine,” which features LDN as one of four treatments, I have read about and spoken to several patients with Crohn’s who have been helped by this inexpensive treatment. I am happy to provide more information to anyone who is interested. Just write to me at Julia at HonestMedicine.com. Thanks so much, and I hope this information will be useful to your readers. Julia Schopick (HonestMedicine.com)

  • http://tinyurl.com/ldn-wonder-drug Dudley Delany

    This site discusses LDN in the treatment of Crohn’s: http://tinyurl.com/ldn-for-crohns This site discusses into LDN as a treatment for childhood Crohn’s: http://tinyurl.com/ldn-for-childhood-crohns

  • Pingback: My View on Escape The Stall « asizCreatives()

  • Pingback: Response to the new CCFA AD from a Parent, thoughts?? « Keeping Things Inside is Bad for My Health()

  • Pingback: IBD is SO Complex « Keeping Things Inside is Bad for My Health()

  • http://adsprofitrewards.org/ads-profit-reward-company/ Ads Profit Reward Company

    Very good article! We are linking to this great content on our website. Keep up the great writing.