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Parkinson’s UK Fights the Can'ts in Fast-Paced Return to TV

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Blonde used user-generated content to show the impacts of Parkinson's

Parkinson’s UK Fights the Can'ts in Fast-Paced Return to TV

After a more than 14 year absence from TV advertising, Parkinson's UK will be returning on Tuesday 17th November with a hard-hitting campaign. 

Launching during a specially created ad break in Channel 4 News at 19:24, it aims to increase the nation’s understanding of the debilitating condition and the urgent need for donations to deliver more breakthroughs in research. 

In a year when the charity has seen donations drop due to the pandemic, many will consider it a bold move to use the majority of what is a reduced marketing budget on a brand-led TV campaign. But it’s a move that was driven by the aims of the Parkinson’s community and the charity’s need to stand out in the sector to secure longer-term growth.  

The advert, made of user-generated content, takes viewers on a fast-paced journey through the harsh reality of Parkinson’s, showing what the condition stops people from being able to do, including walk, eat and sleep, before switching to show the determination of the community and what can be achieved by working together towards the ultimate goal of a cure. 

Hannah Dedman, head of brand, marketing and content at Parkinson’s UK, said: “The footage in some places is hard to watch but it’s important for us to be able to show how difficult the reality of the condition can be for people living with Parkinson’s. We need to challenge the stereotype that it’s ‘just the shakes’. And the people who feature in the campaign wanted us to show this reality, no matter how uncomfortable.  

“The involvement of the Parkinson’s community is a priority for us. Throughout the process, we worked closely with people affected by the condition, including some ‘critical friends’ whose role was to challenge us to make sure we were landing the right message, and keeping close to our overall strategy of getting Parkinson’s understood. 

“We know our supporters want to see us on TV. Now, by adapting to the pandemic and making our reduced budgets work hard for us, we can be - to help spread the message of the realities of the condition and increase donations for much-needed Parkinson’s research.” 

The Barber Shop, partnering with The Rapids, co-led this approach, which included going beyond getting Parkinson’s understood to showing how the charity is actively working towards a cure, along with using broadcast media to reach a broader, younger but unaffected audience. The charity’s remarkable research breakthroughs over the past 50 years have given the hope of curing Parkinson’s, so the strategy was to give this the platform it deserved. 

With donations impacted by Covid, it was essential that the creative could be delivered on a shoestring budget, yet still adhere to the strategy. The team set out to create a memorable and motivating asset that could be transferred from TV to social platforms, and in a short  timescale - the charity briefed in creative partner, Blonde, in August and worked together to have the advert finalised by the end of October.  

Doug Newman, MD of Blonde, said: "What struck us was the tenacity of both Parkinson's UK and the Parkinson's community, in chasing down a cure for what is now the fastest growing neurological condition in the world. Our creative had to reflect their boldness, highlight the seriousness of the condition, the scale of the problem and hero the breakthroughs that have been made, whilst ensuring the key message was one of empowerment, that people 'can' donate and get involved so that together, we can find a cure". 

Benjamin Dawson, creative partner at Blonde, said: "Parkinson's UK was clear they needed to stand out, especially during a time when every charity has found themselves fighting for donations. It had to reflect the boldness of the brand. It had to be high-concept, hard-hitting and cut-through and work across an integrated campaign. With just under three months till launch, navigating the new pandemic production guidelines, we had our work cut out for us. 

“The TV ad was particularly challenging. We had a lot to squeeze into a thirty-second commercial. Speed would be our vehicle. A hyper-paced edit, setting up the problem by distilling the more than 40 symptoms of Parkinson's into a series of what people can't do, which then turns on a sixpence to celebrate what people can do to fight back and eventually find a cure; tapping into that 'can-do' attitude that would resonate with our audience.” 

Doug Newman, MD of Blonde, continues. "With a limited budget and the possibility of a film or photography shoot being almost impossible, our options were drastically reduced. We turned these constraints into a creative opportunity, looking to Parkinson's UK's archive footage and reaching out to the Parkinson's community for help. We searched through hundreds of hours of content to find the perfect shots to tell the story. Using archive footage gave the creative an extra layer of authenticity and truth. It's bold, it's provocative and hard  to stomach, yet simultaneously hopeful and a rallying cry to help find a cure.” 

“It makes the viewer use all of their senses. It is not just about the audio and visual aspect, it  actually makes you feel it, the struggle of the can't and then the hope of the can”. - Bob,  living with Parkinson’s & featuring in the advert at 0.01.

The TV advert will run across the Channel 4 network for six weeks, and is one part of an integrated campaign that aims to raise £1million for the charity’s research. It will be backed up by additional promotion on the charity’s social media channels, website and communications to their supporters.  

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Brand: Parkinson’s UK 


Creative agency: Blonde 

Creative: Benjamin Dawson & Doug Newman 

Media agency: The Barber Shop 

Strategy director: Dino Myers-Lamptey 


Production: Blonde 

Directors: Benjamin Dawson & Doug Newman 


Head of Brand, Marketing and Content: Hannah Dedman 

Brand Marketing Lead: Zohra Vermani

Marketing Campaign Manager: Chantal Payne 


Creative Lead: Philippa Bell 

Content Lead: Dee Russell

Genres: Dialogue

Categories: Awareness, Corporate, Social and PSAs

Blonde, Tue, 17 Nov 2020 09:58:34 GMT