Disease awareness meets experiential marketing in this creative campaign for PKU – a rare disease where eating too much protein can have fatal results.
Imagine having to follow a diet so precise that eating just an extra ounce of protein might be enough to kill you. Now imagine having to do it with no means of measuring the protein in your food, and with no-one around you that understands your problem. Your chances of survival rest on little more than a guessing game.
It sounds like science fiction. But it’s a full-time reality for people with phenylketonuria (PKU).
PKU is a rare metabolic disease where simply eating the wrong amount of protein can cause irreversible brain damage. At the moment, there is no cure. And to make things even harder, patients currently have no means of measuring levels of protein in their blood.
The disease is largely unknown. We wanted to change this.
We partnered with the PKU Foundation to increase awareness of PKU and raise funds to develop a biosensor device for patients to monitor their protein levels at home.
To get there, we talked openly with PKU patients to find out what mattered most to them. Because it’s only by understanding real-world health experiences that we can develop communications that help improve outcomes.
Our goal was to create an experience that reflected the needs of PKU patients and made their daily challenges relatable to the wider world.
The centerpiece of the campaign is a short film called ‘Protein Kills Us’, which invites audiences to experience the harsh realities of life with PKU.
The movie focuses on Candela, the only survivor in a post-apocalyptic future. Candela suffers from PKU. In an almost sterile environment – where insects are the only source of natural protein – a biosensor is the only thing that can guarantee her survival. One bug too many could have devastating consequences.
The film was shared through a multichannel campaign that included a trailer, cinema screenings and an immersive experience at the Sitges International Fantastic Film Festival. The audience was given small tubes of popcorn so they could experience the amount of protein PKU patients can ingest in a whole day to avoid complications.
Festival-goers could also visit an on-site caravan and experience for themselves this dystopian world where eating the right number of insects holds the key to survival.
In the movie, Candela is lucky: she’s wearing her magic bracelet – a biosensor device – that means she knows exactly how many bugs she can eat. Creativity saves her life.
The campaign was amplified through social, print and digital media – and supported by Spanish celebrities as part of a sustained PR effort. The film is now being recognized in other international cinema festivals.
The battle to bring the health experiences of PKU patients to a wider audience continues. Creativity will be at the heart of the solution.
For more information on phenylketonuria and our partnership with the PKU Foundation, contact us here.
The project has been recognised by winning the following awards: Aspid Awards – Gold in film about pathologies . Aspid Awards – Gold in PR. Aspid Awards – Platinum (best campaign of 2020 selected from all golds). Eurobest – Shortlist at Branded Content (Healthcare). Disorder Film Festival – selected film. Lift Off Global Network Berlin 2021 – selected film