Leukemia & Lymphoma Society Bows Brand Push

Campaign is first work from startup Interplanetary

At the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, “campaigns” generally connote fundraising efforts. But now, the organization, for the first time in its 63-year history, has launched a brand image campaign that seeks to make LLS more of a household name.

Public awareness of LLS, which raises money to advance the treatment of blood cancers, is relatively low, particularly compared to the likes of the American Cancer Society and the National Breast Cancer Foundation. To address that problem, LLS lead agency Interplanetary has turned to television, creating TV ads that network and cable stations are running for free.

"Someday Is Today" is the theme of the campaign, which also includes print, outdoor and digital ads and is backed by an estimated $20 million in paid and unpaid media. The effort’s feel is contemporary and the tone hopeful, as LLS seeks to stand apart from the clichés of causal advertising.

“We wanted to be less sort of guilt. We wanted to be less trite,” explained Lisa Stockmon, svp of marketing and communications at LLS in White Plains, N.Y. “We want to be more part of, ‘You know what? The money that you invest in us…makes an impact and we have been able to change the face of cancer from the work that we do.’”

One TV ad, for example, notes that the survival rate of children diagnosed with the most common form of leukemia has jumped from just 3 percent in the 1960s to 90 percent today. That fact—conveyed simply via screen copy—is juxtaposed with slow-motion images of kids playing soccer.

Another TV ad depicts a string of men and women stopping what they’re doing and staring wide-eyed, as a male voice teases, “You’ll remember this day forever. You’ll remember where you were. This day has never been closer.” At that point, a fifty-something man picks up a newspaper from his porch. The front-page headline reads, “Cancer Cured!”

The voice goes on to explain that thanks to LLS’ investment of nearly $1 billion in cancer treatments, hundreds of thousands with blood cancer now live normal lives. The ad ends with a twenty-something cancer patient smiling and joining hands with an elderly patient and a call to action: “Help us make cures happen. Help us reach today sooner. Join us.”

Actor Michael C. Hall, star of Showtime’s Dexter and a lymphoma survivor, provided the voiceover and Rick Knief of Accomplice Media was the director.

The campaign represents the first work from Interplanetary, a New York startup that’s led by a quintet of executives from big agencies like Ogilvy & Mather, G2 and Wunderman. Most of them first met at Ogilvy in the 1990s—an experience that proved critical to the shop landing LLS' business.

One account they worked on at Ogilvy was Time Warner Cable, and back then Stockmon was a marketing leader there. She later worked as managing director of concept solutions at Time Inc. before joining LLS in March 2012.

About three months in, as Stockmon began the task of building LLS’ brand, she got a call from Jill McClabb, an Interplanetary co-founder and creative director that she knew from the days of Ogilvy and Time Warner. Stockmon gave Interplanetary a corporate project that evolved into a lead agency relationship, with Interplanetary creating not only advertising but also LLS’ latest annual report.

The agency’s other founders are creative directors Bruce Lee and Chris Parker, strategic planning director Andy Semons and managing director Joe Dessi. The shop, which partners with outside media and digital agencies as needed, bills itself as nimble, hands-on and interdisciplinary—certainly all qualities that Stockmon will continue to need in her mission to make LLS more top-of-mind.