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Advertising to the Marrow

It seems that every busi­ness needs some sort of adver­tis­ing to make them stand out from their com­pe­ti­tion. Even non-prof­its for bone mar­row donation.

DKMS Amer­i­c­as, a world­wide orga­ni­za­tion that facil­i­tates bone mar­row trans­plants for peo­ple with blood can­cer, among oth­er seri­ous dis­eases, recent­ly sent out a request for pro­pos­al to some of the biggest adver­tis­ing agen­cies in New York. Accord­ing to Adweek, some of the agen­cies com­pet­ing for the DKMS busi­ness are Grey, TBWA/Chiat/Day, SS+K and Vit­ro, in the areas of cre­ative and media for both the U.S. and U.K. mar­kets. One per­son per ten min­utes dies from blood can­cer every ten min­utes in the Unit­ed States alone and even more per­ish worldwide.


While DKMS is a non-prof­it, it claims to be the largest bone mar­row dona­tion cen­ter in the world. It will rely upon donat­ed media time and cor­po­rate part­ners to pay for the media, with an esti­mat­ed val­ue price tag of $20 mil­lion per year. How­ev­er, the cre­ative work on this bone mar­row cam­paign will not be pro-bono for these agen­cies, as this has been described as a fee-based assignment—which may explain why so many of these big agen­cies who run cam­paigns for major For­tune 500 com­pa­nies have been aggres­sive­ly try­ing to land the business.


While most adver­tis­ing is to get more busi­ness and in the case of a non-prof­it, to get more peo­ple to donate, this doesn’t appear to be DKMS’s pri­ma­ry goal through this cam­paign. Rather, it’s to raise aware­ness about the vic­tims of dis­eases relat­ed to bad bone mar­row and to help find peo­ple who can be life sav­ing match­es to donate in hopes of sav­ing a life. With a strong adver­tis­ing cam­paign run­ning world­wide, this should have a much broad­er reach and, in the­o­ry, draw in more donors then the 3.6 mil­lion who have already donat­ed to the DKMS cause.

This is a true strate­gic chal­lenge for these agen­cies, who are sea­soned in help­ing their clients sell a prod­uct. In this case, sell­ing is not the goal but rather a mem­o­rable slo­gan or series of images that will make peo­ple think about the cause and con­sid­er donat­ing their own time, mar­row or money.

What’s most unique about this project for any of these large adver­tis­ing agen­cies who are com­pet­ing for the work, is that they will be com­ing up with cre­ative copy for a noble cause, yet also being paid for their efforts. While some peo­ple may con­sid­er this to be a con­flict of inter­est for a non-prof­it, pay­ing the agency will encour­age them to cre­ate bet­ter work.

The final pre­sen­ta­tions from the four major adver­tis­ing agen­cies are slat­ed for mid-Sep­tem­ber, with the win­ner of the account to be announced short­ly thereafter.

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