Today we’re launching a marketing campaign to get Parkinson’s understood

Not enough people understand what it’s like to live with Parkinson’s. Together, we can change that.

People with Parkinson’s have told us that a lack of public understanding affects their everyday lives. It makes living with the condition harder, whether it’s being mistaken for being drunk, or having to fight for fair benefits. People affected can feel like the system is against them, or fear being judged when they go out in public.

Limited understanding among the public also limits our potential to grow support and ensure we’re there for people with Parkinson’s, and their carers and loved ones.

We know that Parkinson’s is complex and it’s hard to know the reality if you don’t know someone with the condition. That’s why we’re committed to getting Parkinson’s better understood amongst the wider population. And our latest marketing campaign launches today.

What is the campaign?

Our latest marketing campaign launches on 6 September and will be running for 4 weeks, with more advertising planned for later in 2021, too. Our adverts will be running on digital channels across the UK such as social media and web search engines (the adverts you see in your internet search results). The campaign will also include adverts in public spaces such as print posters and digital billboards in train stations, shopping centres and motorway service stations in England and Scotland. 

The campaign uses themes from our powerful Time for Can campaign from the winter of 2020 (see our TV advert), with new opportunities to tell more stories about Parkinson’s. Across the campaign, we’re creating a sense of urgency. We want to show that Parkinson’s is a serious condition and that together, we’ll find a cure.

What do we want to achieve and who is the campaign aimed at?

Our advertising campaigns aim to get more people unaffected by Parkinson’s to:

  • Understand and care about the condition.
  • Know we’re the charity driving forward pioneering research. 
  • Support the Parkinson’s community and Parkinson’s UK.

To make more people care about Parkinson’s and drive support for Parkinson’s UK this campaign targets a specific group of younger adults who are unaffected by the condition. We’ve chosen this group as our research shows they are ready to deepen their understanding and are great potential supporters of our movement to transform life with Parkinson’s and find a cure - if we can make them care. We also know they talk to and share messages with their friends, family and colleagues about causes they care about, which helps us spread understanding of Parkinson’s.

Now, we’re building on previous campaigns, continuing to talk about Parkinson’s with this group of people and ensuring more people understand – and care – about the condition.

David, who has been working on the latest campaign says:
“I’ve been stuck on the tube while commuting in London, because I knew I’d fall if I let go of the handrail. I’ve been stuck on a bench by the side of the road while on holiday in Whitby, frozen, too embarrassed to ask for help.

“I’ve been helped by kind strangers. But I’ve also been ignored, given a wide berth.

“People are more aware of disability now. But I believe we’re just scratching the surface. We’ve got so much further to go to get Parkinson’s not just seen, or heard, but understood.

“Parkinson’s isn’t ‘just’ the shakes. There are over 40 symptoms to deal with. If you meet one person with Parkinson’s, then... you’ve met one person with Parkinson’s!

“That’s why I’m so proud to be working on the Time For Can campaign. By sharing real stories by real people, some of the things we have to deal with everyday, in our homes, no gimmicks or filters - just people like me telling it like it is - we can all learn something about Parkinson’s. Whether we have the condition or not.”

With more people supporting the Parkinson’s community and Parkinson’s UK, we’ll all be able to achieve more and reach further, together.

Look out for the campaign near you and read on below for more information on the campaign and how it came together.

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How were people with Parkinson’s involved initially?

People with Parkinson’s and their loved ones have told us about the negative impact on them when people don’t understand the reality and complexity of the condition. To make more people understand, and care, we need to capture their attention by using creative ways to stand out among other adverts. This means that our marketing needs to talk about Parkinson’s boldly and authentically. We’ve worked alongside people with Parkinson’s, and their loved ones, in a number of ways to bring our campaign to life. 

Last year, we ran the first version of our Time For Can campaign. People with Parkinson’s were involved throughout the initial development process of the TV advert. We tested the TV advert with a diverse group of people with Parkinson’s who provided feedback on the overall development and script. We also worked closely with 2 people with Parkinson’s who were an important extension of our creative team. They contributed to the creative discussion throughout.

How have people with Parkinson’s been involved this year?

This year, we’ve continued to be led by insight from people with Parkinson’s and their loved ones to inform what stories we tell. We’ve worked closely with the people featured in the campaign and the stories shared all reflect their real experiences of the condition.

We’ve also gathered lots of information – and spoken to people in our community – about what matters most to them, which has informed the stories we tell in the campaign. This includes our survey on what symptoms matter most, and results from a recent survey on what people wish the public knew about Parkinson’s.

We’re continuing to work with people with Parkinson’s, and their loved ones, as we develop our marketing later this year and beyond. We also recently ran 2 in-depth focus groups with people with Parkinson’s and their loved ones to help understand the different experiences of Parkinson’s. All of this will continue to inform the future stories we tell to get Parkinson’s understood.

We received lots of useful feedback from our community when the TV advert was live last year, which has been implemented in the campaign. You can read more on this specifically below. 

How can I be involved in the future?

We’re continuing to work with people with Parkinson’s to develop our campaigns. If you’re interested in helping us shape the stories we tell to get Parkinson’s understood, we’d like to hear from you. Please email [email protected] and we’ll be in touch.

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We want to get Parkinson’s understood. This won’t happen overnight, and not from a single campaign either. But, our marketing helps move us forward in our journey. We carefully track the success of our campaigns in getting Parkinson’s understood and driving support. Our campaign last year had some great successes, and some big learnings too, which have all informed our approach this time.

The TV advert got more people to understand Parkinson's - an increase from 58% to 61% which equates to about 210,000 more people understanding Parkinson's This was well above what we were expecting from a single campaign. And as a result of the wider campaign, almost 2,000 new supporters donated to our research and helped us to drive towards new treatments and a cure.

We tested the advert specifically with our target audience.

They told us they learnt:

  • “it’s a debilitating disease, with no cure as yet. There is hope for a cure, but the research needs money.”

They told us they liked:

  • “[the] clear strong message...Hopeful ending. Footage of real people”
  • “the speed and the ‘can’t’ which highlights the frustration of the patients”
  • “bringing awareness but doing so in a manner that engages, informs and creates empathy”
  • “The flurry of speech and pace of scenes through the advert which then slows down as ‘cure’ is mentioned.”
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We know the Time for Can adverts are bold. This is something lots of people from our community praised as “exactly what is needed” to get people to understand and care about Parkinson's. But we know it was also difficult to watch for many people too. We’ve reviewed all the feedback we received really carefully when planning our next steps and there are a number of things we’ve done to implement feedback, making sure that the campaign still has the impact we need to cut through and make people care.
Here’s some of the common things that we heard, and what we’ve done as a result. 

It doesn’t reflect my experiences or show the full reality of Parkinson’s
The stories in this campaign, like last year, are taken from people’s real experiences of the condition. But Parkinson’s is complex and we're not going to be able to show people the full reality of Parkinson's in one, short advert.

That’s why we’re increasing the type of adverts we use this time, including digital adverts and out of home adverts (think billboards). This will allow us to tell more stories in different ways. This could include multiple stories shown quickly in a short film, as well as longer online content that will allow us to go more in depth into a single person's story and show the different sides of what it’s like to live with Parkinson’s.

This means we’ll have a better balance between adverts that grab attention and adverts that give more time for people to understand the experiences of Parkinson’s.
It’s too hard-hitting and it’s too fast. It doesn’t show what people with Parkinson’s CAN do or give a sense of hope.
(This type of feedback was equally split with people praising that it needed to be hard hitting and fast paced to land the reality of Parkinson’s)

In order to get Parkinson’s understood by people who have no connection to the condition, we need to grab their attention and show them the reality of the condition in a way that has impact - something our target audience told us they liked.

This means that we’ll still be bold in showing the reality of Parkinson’s, using people’s real experiences. However, we have made some changes to take on board the valuable feedback.

We’ve created shorter versions of the video to use on social media platforms and video outdoor posters. These versions have taken on feedback from last year’s Time for Can TV advert, including:

  • Ensuring we are signposting support at every stage including having the helpline number on our posters, talking about the support we offer through our social media channels and clearly signposting support on our website content.
  • Evolving the pace of the film and slowing it down where we can to leave people with a more hopeful impression overall.
  • Updating some of the ‘can’t’ statements based on community feedback.
  • Continuing to include people with Parkinson’s in the ‘cans’ - because we want to celebrate what people with Parkinson’s can do and how we’ll find a cure, together.
  • Be clearer on how the target audience can take action and support.

It says people with Parkinson’s are ‘ashamed’ – this isn’t true

The word “ashamed” was a phrase someone used to explain their experience of Parkinson’s. However, we understand people’s concerns and are removing this phrase from the campaign.  

Parkinson's doesn't discriminate and it affects people in different ways. We're not going to be able to show people the full reality of Parkinson's in 1 campaign, in just one moment in time. We're committed to deepening understanding of Parkinson's and want to build on the successes of the TV advert last year by continuing to tell more stories about Parkinson's. This is why we’re carrying out further advertising this year and looking at more ways we can tell stories about Parkinson’s all year round.
We also want to continue to listen so we'll be capturing all feedback and using this to plan how we develop our marketing. If you have any feedback to share, we’re listening. Please email your thoughts to [email protected].

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Our outdoor advertising was planned at a UK wide level. As part of the package eventually provided, we weren’t able to choose locations. We also received almost £70,000 worth of free advertising space generously donated to us by Smart Outdoors – one of our corporate partners, whose locations are focused across the north of England and Scotland. We will use the learnings from the locations we have to help plan future campaigns, which could be more UK-wide.

Want to share your thoughts on the campaign?

Please email [email protected]