Omnicom Team to Tout Alzheimer’s Message

For many organizations that serve seniors, staying relevant to consumers approaching the organizations’ target age has been a central issue. Now, the Alzheimer’s Association is dealing with that task, as the top end of the 70 million-plus baby boomers nears their 60th birthdays, and that’s job one for the Omnicom Group team tapped last week to create a $20 million marketing push for the association.

The effort includes the first ads for the organization, which says the 4.5 million Americans now suffering from Alzheimer’s disease will triple by 2050 unless a cure can be found. That will be the challenge for direct-response shop Rapp Collins, public relations agency Porter Novelli and philanthropic-services shop Changing Our World.

The group wants to take a more “aggressive” approach to marketing than in the past and gain consumer recognition, said David Zucker, evp, director of CauseWorks, a cause- marketing division of Porter Novelli in New York. Zucker heads the integrated team on the account.

“There’s a critical need to do branding—getting the message out and telling people to get earlier diagnoses and make healthier choices,” said Sheldon Goldberg, president and CEO of the Alzheimer’s Association.

The winning agencies bested the team of Interpublic Group’s MRM Partners, McCann-Erickson and Weber Shandwick in a review. Other shops—including Omnicom’s Draft, independent Grey Direct, IPG’s Mullen and Golin Harris, and WPP Group’s Wunderman—were eliminated at earlier stages.

The association aims to change its focus from serving as an information resource to being a public advocacy group, according to Zucker.

“Our primary task is to reposition the association,” said Malcolm Speed, chairman and CEO of Rapp Collins. “It really is at the core of what’s going on [in the Alzheimer’s arena], but awareness is quite low.”

The three shops are conducting an audit to determine a strategy for the upcoming effort. The campaign is set to break in the first quarter and likely will encompass a variety of themes, including patient care, reducing risks and the urgent need to fund research, Speed noted.

“Rapp and MRM had all the skills: strategic thinking, PR, interactive, advertising,” said Kathryn Kane, svp of brand management and marketing at the association’s headquarters in Chicago. “But we were looking for an agency that could do fundraising, and [Rapp] had experience in that.”

Neither the association nor the agencies would disclose details about the pitch.

The bulk of the $20 million budget will go toward direct marketing, with the remainder spread among public relations, interactive and advertising, according to Kane.

Health organizations pairing with marketing agencies is not a new concept. Recent efforts include WPP’s Ogilvy Public Relations and its “Red Dress” campaign, which seeks to prevent heart disease in women for the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, a division of the U.S. National Institutes of Health. And Havas’ Brann Worldwide has done work for the National Osteoporosis Foundation.

“The challenge will be communicating the relevance of the issue to baby boomers who have pretty much been in denial and see this as a disease of much older people,” said Zucker.