Monday, September 27, 2010

Arthritis New Zealand Annual Appeal rant

Edit: According to Google Analytics I've had a few hits from people Googling "arthritis" "New Zealand" etc. If you wish to join our Wellington-based Facebook group you can do so here. All welcome.

You may or may not be aware of the fact that I have ankylosing spondylitis; an autoimmune disease with a ridiculously long-winded, tongue-twister of a name, and a depressing list of symptoms and outlooks. AS is a form of arthritis that mainly affects the spine. I was diagnosed a number of years ago now, and had my first symptoms of it around age 12.

At some stage I will definitely write a post on my personal experiences as a juvenile arthritic, but today I'm just writing my opinion on this TV advertisement for Arthritis New Zealand, and their annual appeal week which finishes tomorrow.

This year is the first time I'd seen it, though according to the YouTube upload it was also used last year. A trio of NZ "celebrities" fumble around in bright orange, over sized gloves, attempting to demonstrate the restrictions arthritis causes its sufferers.

Firstly, the elements of this ad that I commend are as follows:
  • The use of locally recognisable celebrities
  • Featuring Geraldine Brophy, who has arthritis herself
  • Having a TV advertisement in the first place
However, that's pretty much where my praise ends.

I knew what arthritis was even as a small child, even though I wasn't aware that my own Mum had it (I'm talking primary school age). I recall the term being commonly used throughout my early years among my peers, "Don't crack your knuckles, you'll get arthritis!" We may not have known the finer details of the symptoms or causes of the disease, but we were all perfectly aware that arthritis was pain inside the joints of a person's body.

I personally don't think that the general population needs any eduction as to what arthritis is, on surface value, which is all this ad really covers. I don't imagine there's anyone in the country who doesn't know of somebody affected by it, and therefore knows the basics of what it is. However for the majority of people it will be an elderly relative with osteoarthritis, which is incredibly common, affecting almost all of the elderly population; a progressive breakdown of the joints. Elderly are already considered old and slow, and if I didn't have my own experiences with a different type of the disease, then I imagine I'd be quite oblivious to the degree of pain these elderly people are suffering from.

I don't like the advertisement's focus on the physical restrictions of arthritis, and the emphasis on the hands. This point is all very well outlined in Helen's blog post here:

"For one thing, these ads have absolutely no mention of pain. Personally, I have almost full function of my hands, but that doesn't mean that they are not extremely painful. Yes, arthritis does sometimes make my hands fumbly. There are times when I can't do up zips or find using a knife and fork difficult but this is a minor irritation compared to the long list of other symptoms and difficulties that come with the disease..."

"Then of course there is the pain and the things that go along with constantly being in pain. Lack of sleep, inability to concentrate, general exhaustion and floods of emotion..."

"Too many people already think that arthritis is just something you get in your hands..."

Lastly, I am irritated by the missed opportunity that could have been provided by the young celebrities. Where was the "I'm Drew Neemia, and arthritis affects people MY AGE"?
I realise there are two separate issues that Arthritis New Zealand supposedly advocate: the plea for support in the form of donations, and the plea for support in the form of public awareness and understanding. I just absolutely believe that this campaign could have achieved both to a greater degree if more emphasis was put on the how and the who, rather than just the what.


Little Miss Autoimmune said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Thanks, Alice. This is a really cool post. I think you got straight to the heart of it.
Hopefully even if the ads haven't raised awareness, we can by talking about it. :-) Hx

Michaela said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

I think the fact that Drew was in the ad reflected that "hey, it can affect anyone". How did you miss that? Also, it was made this way because ANYONE can understand it this way, anyone can imagine how hard it would be to do things if you had giant hands. If you get too complex with the details people aren't going to relate. Also given the fact advertisments are no longer than 60 seconds, with most being 30seconds. My thoughts.

Alice said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

I disagree that Drew/Carly/Jeremy's mere presence in the ad demonstrated clearly the ages of people it affects; to me it came across as pure celebrity endorsement to get attention- a perfectly valid and important method of advertising it, but the fact that they're celebrities (who (afaik) aren't sufferers of the disease) is far more prominent than their ages being representative of arthritics'. Also I'm a bit perplexed by your 'giant hands' remark.

Sarah said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Grrrrr my hands never feel "giant" When I flare the lack of walking, the nausea, the headaches, the side effects from medication, the depression and the constant hospital visits are the problem for me, speaking as a arthritic in their 20's. Not being able to participate in activities that my peers are participating in.

My hands are the LEAST of my worries.

Great post Alice! Lets get on to making out own video :)

Michaela said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

What I was saying, is I thought they were trying to get across to viewers in a short time frame the difficulty of living with arthritis. Using the idea of the "big hands" may not exactly match the suffering that is endured but gives viewers an idea of how difficult living with arthritis is. Using a young recognizable face (Drew) I feel both reflected the age groups it can affect AND drawing attention with his celebrity. Why can't it be both?

Donovan said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

I think if the people making this had a free hand, you'd have seen something very different. Ditto goes for the management team at ANZ.
Organizations like this have many masters and generally only manage to please a few. Plus there would have been constraints put on the performances by what the talent are allowed to be seen doing. All bar Geraldine are TV3 talent, so they can't do whatever they want. Their network producers would have seen to that...

Alice said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Hi Donovan, thanks for your insight- I definitely appreciate what you're saying. In the year since this blog post I was very pleased to see an awareness campaign with a focus not only on AS, but youth as well. This post was definitely a personal and emotional response to years of frustration at the lack of service for myself and other young people i know who have arthritis from the organisation. I have definitely noticed an improvement in their engagement with youth this year... Unfortunately I can't do anything to alter google rankings. Thanks for your comments!