NYU's "Ransom Notes" ad campaign has taken a lot of heat in the form of bad press lately.
In case you've been in Tahiti for the last few weeks, these ads are written in the form of mock ransom notes from children with a range of psychiatric disorders, from autism to anorexia. The premise is that these illnesses "kidnap" kids, and that treatment "rescues" them.
And guess what? I think this is BLOODY BRILLIANT. I had panic disorder--undiagnosed and untreated--for my entire childhood, and this is exactly how it felt even to me at the time. I wish someone had noticed my distress and rescued me. And as the parent of a teen with anorexia, I appreciate the sentiment here--that parents need to wake up and do something.
I get the counterarguments, especially as they come from parents in the autism advocacy movement. And I'm just as cynical as the average reader (maybe more so) about the drug company lobbies. There's money to be made in peddling medications, and kids are a big market.
But none of this holds a candle to the absolute life-shattering despair of living with an untreated psychiatric illness. Of feeling like you're going mad and no one is noticing. Of the fallout of years and years of feeling so alone and helpless.
I often wonder how my life might be different had someone helped me with panic disorder when I was a child. I suspect I'd be a very different person today. And while those who know and love me might say, "We wouldn't want that!"--I'd take it in a heartbeat.
Sometimes a strong message is what's needed. I think BBDO, the agency that created this campaign, got it right.