We have recently been looking at three adverts that promote the awareness of a disease called MS or Multiple sclerosis; this disease is caused by scabs or imperfections on the covering of the nerves known as the myelin sheath. This prevents messages from the brain successfully reaching their destination causing problems. Multiple sclerosis is a chronic, often disabling disease of the central nervous system.
Symptoms may be mild such as numbness in the limbs or severe paralysis or loss of vision. Most people with MS are diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 40 but the unpredictable physical and emotional effects can be lifelong. The progress, severity and specific symptoms of MS in any one person cannot yet be predicted, but advances in research and treatment are giving hope to those affected by the disease.
The National Multiple Sclerosis Society is dedicated to ending the devastating effects of multiple sclerosis. They are a non-profit organization that tries to gain awareness so people will pledge money or support. These three adverts appeared in the Guardian newspaper, a respected broadsheet and also on billboards. Even though these adverts may have been aimed at sophisticated people they appeal to a large audience and the language is simple and easy to read which makes these adverts have a universal appeal. The adverts appeared several years ago to raise awareness of the disease; sales and donations are of secondary issue.
The first advert is an introductory advert, it introduces the reader to the disease and tells anyone who has no idea about the illness all the basic symptoms, and you don’t really need to know much about MS it’s all explained. The heading at the top of the page is a rhetorical question, “What’s MS like?” It is in white print on a black background so it immediately jumps out at the reader, after reading the heading we wonder about the answer and call to mind whatever we know about the disease.
Then comes the answer to the question, the answer is that MS is totally unpredictable. We are told to close our eyes and stick a pin in the page, this is a clever idea by the advertiser, using a children’s game like ‘Pin the tail on the donkey’, a game with which most people are familiar. This also helps convey the random nature of the disease and how one never knows when and which symptoms will affect them. Then underneath in large, bold, black print on a white background is the phrase “Every day for the rest of your life”, this has quite a big impact on the reader as we learn MS is incurable and the sufferer may have something different wrong with them every day till they die, each and every day may be tainted by the disease.
The picture is very emotive, the man is normal, not deformed or odd to look at, he looks like any ordinary person, which tells us that the disease may affect anyone. The man looks out at us, the reader and we cannot avoid his direct stare, he has a serious expression which reinforces the fact that the disease is serious and the advert is covering a serious topic. The picture appears to be a passport picture, very simple and straight forward, the photo is creased which makes the picture very personal, like its been folded and put in somebody’s wallet, like its someone’s son or husband again this helps us realize the disease can strike anyone.
The folds may also represent the imperfection MS causes or the cross a sufferer may have to bear. On the picture is a catalogue of symptoms but no consequences or effects like the other two adverts we have studied. This advert is merely to educate us about the symptoms of the disease. It provokes us to imagine what it would be like living with the disease, and how the disease is so random; other diseases may have symptoms which are nearly always the same.
On the advert there are so many different symptoms, “Today you cant climb the stairs”, This is mentioned twice, maybe because mobility and freedom is so important to us all, no one likes to depend on others and the disease may make a person become immobile. Another is “Today you can’t move” this is yet another example of the disease affecting a person’s mobility.
At the bottom of the advert is the Multiple Sclerosis Society’s logo, the logo makes the reader remember the company and reassures the reader that it is a registered charity, it makes the reader trust the charity as they’re registered. The logo consists of a large white bold MS on a black background. They’re is a gap in the M which had been put there on purpose, this gap could represent the gap in a sufferers life, maybe the instability a sufferer is faced with, or it could even represent the scab and imperfection on the myelin sheath which causes the disease.
Also at the bottom is the factual information it is in very small print and we almost don’t see it, this is because the purpose of these adverts is to promote awareness it isn’t really concentrated on making money. We are told in very simple language where to phone if we would like to donate any money to the charity. Then at the very bottom of the page is the slogan of the charity, “The MS society providing the strength to fight MS”, This lets us know that sufferers need support. We notice how it doesn’t say “the strength to beat MS” because at the moment the disease is incurable.
Then we come to the second advert, it is a picture of a black man, which tells us the disease affects all races, and again the person looks out at the reader. Like the last advert again the advert is very direct, straight to the point it gets straight to the point which makes it very hard hitting. It is very hard to avoid the ma s direct gaze that makes us feel uncomfortable which is probably the intended effect. We cannot shed the stare, just like he can’t shed the illness.
This second advert followed on from the first, the first only explored the symptoms of the disease and we were left to imagine the effects of the disease on the sufferer’s life. The second advert is very similar to the first in many ways, only it goes a little further and mentions the consequences of the illness. A very conventional font style has been used once again; anything else like a fancy or fun font would be inappropriate for the serious message. The headings are in a larger font and in contrasting colours, at the top of the page there is a rhetorical question, “Having a bad day? Let me tell you About some of mine”.