A Sweet Campaign From France Makes a Burn Victim’s Most Defining Trait His Ugly Sweater

TBWA\Paris ad seeks to reduce isolation and bias

This ad supports the mission of helping burn victims resocialize as part of their healing. Burns and Smiles
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Every year, France sees 400,000 new burn victims—10,000 of whom are considered medically severe. That’s 10,000 people who, once they’ve healed, must then navigate a world of uncomfortable stares and preconceived notions. On the surface, it may not occur to people that it is an issue of national attention. But something as overtly superficial as someone’s appearance has a way of swaying internal biases, which can make acclimating to both their health and their environment significantly harder.

To help reduce the likelihood of isolation and prejudice, Burns and Smiles partnered with TWBA\Paris for a special campaign to encourage others to view burn victims as they would anyone else: people worthy of respect, dignity, and friendship.

The short film follows Mathéo, a teenage boy like any other. He goes to school, plays sports, has a high school sweetheart, and makes what some would consider questionable fashion choices.

There is nothing particularly remarkable about this slice-of-life short, set to Paul Simon’s classic “The Only Living Boy in New York,” and that’s the point. Beyond his scars, Mathéo is just a kid enjoying his life, his friends, his girlfriend and most of all, his ugly sweater. All burn victims should get to live lives as blissfully mundane.

The campaign is a reflection of Burns and Smiles’s overarching mission of helping victims resocialize as part of their healing. Founded by Laurent Gaudens—who was the victim of an accident at age four and suffered from severe burns himself—the organization provides support and resources that help victims ease back into everyday life and help remove a stigma that does nothing more than prevent thousands of people from living their best lives.


Film “Mathéo”
Client: Burns and Smiles
Agency : TBWA\Paris
Advertising Manager: Laurent Gaudens
Agency Managers: Natacha Chevalier, Marion Bellais
Executive Creative Directors: Benjamin Marchal et Faustin Claverie
Conception / Art Direction: Léna Monceau et Julia Deshayes
Head of TV: Maxime Boiron
TV Producer: Lorraine Poincignon

Production: WANDA
Producer: Antoine Bagot
Directors: Bertrand Degove et Fabrice Gobert
Head Operator: Jacques Girault
SFX Makeup: Micka Arasco

Post Production : WANDA
Head of Post-Production: Olivier Glandais
Editor: Cécile Dessertine
Calibrator: Frank Voiturier

Sound Production: TBWA\Else
Head of Music and Sound: Olivier Lefebvre
Sound Director: Fanny Mithois
Sound Engineer: Vendome UHL, Matthieu Seignez, Max Labarthe
Music Rights: Marion Le Guluche
Music: The Only Living Boy in New York

Additional Credits:
St Germain en Laye City Hall
International High-School of St Germain en Laye
Principal: Isabelle Negrel
Maths / Theater teacher: Serger Seguin

Shannon Miller is a writer, podcast creator and contributor to Adweek.