AToMiC Awards: Re-engineering media, pushing social boundaries

This year's Grand Prix winner took a unique approach via social media to raise awareness about Tourette Syndrome.

surrender your sayTourette Syndrome takes tics to Twitter

It’s a bold, risky move when an organization asks the masses to hand over their social media accounts, along with the permission to do with it as they please. In an age where privacy is of utmost concern, and most Canadians (57%) say they’re reluctant to share personal information with organizations (according to Statistics Canada), how could the Tourette Syndrome Foundation of Canada (TSFC) and its agency Saatchi & Saatchi expect thousands to oblige?

“We knew that getting people to give up control of something so personal was going to be a challenge,” says Brian Sheppard, EVP and ECD at the agency, which came up with the idea to convince the public to turn over control of their Twitter feed to the foundation for an entire 24 hours. “But we banked on the fact that, in social, one of the main reasons you trust a message is that you see someone you are following taking part.”

That’s why the agency executed a teaser campaign, which included a TV spot and social media outreach, inviting people to sign up to “Surrender Your Say” and permit TSFC to randomly tweet Tourette tics (such as “I have a biscuit falling through my hair tonight”) from their account when the campaign launched last June.

“We knew that this idea pushed the limits of what people could accept on social, so, to ensure that people didn’t dismiss us [as] out of hand, we included an opt-out where they could stop being a part of the experience at any time,” Sheppard adds. However, very few actually did.

The collaborative campaign had multiple partners pitching in, from the development team at Twitter, who suggested ways to optimize the experience, to people around the world who suffer from TS, describing their tics and how often they happen, to the thousands of people who donated their feeds to the cause. A total of 8,905 Twitter users risked humiliation and losing followers by giving up control of their account.

And the campaign created a global conversation around TS. More than 1,500 people signed up at first, and in only three days, that number increased nearly five times. Their tweets reached almost four million followers and the campaign generated 100 million impressions, while dozens of news outlets, including CNN, the Globe and Mail, National Post and the CBC reported on the campaign. Even a few celebrities, like Rick Mercer, Howie Mandel and Stephen Fry, took part by tweeting #surrenderyoursay to their collective seven million followers.

Ultimately, the campaign enabled participants to experience the public embarrassment and suffering that people with TS endure each day.

The hardware

Tourette Syndrome Foundation of Canada “Surrender Your Say” Saatchi & Saatchi AToMiC Grand Prix / AToMiC Collaboration: Gold /  AToMiC CSR: Gold / AToMiC Idea: Gold / Best Digital Engagement: Gold