Canadian Down Syndrome Society fights the ‘S’ word

The organization uses a new campaign to explain why we need alternatives to "sorry."

The Canadian Down Syndrome Society is building on the success of its “Down Syndrome Answers” campaign, this time turning its attention to another truth close to the hearts of many families.

Working once again with FCB Canada, the CDSS has launched “Anything But Sorry,” a new campaign tailored to the moment at birth, when friends, family and even doctors don’t necessarily know what to say to new parents with a Down syndrome baby.

As the campaign’s tagline suggests, the only “bad word” in these situations is “sorry.”

Parents in the Down syndrome community often hear the heartbreaking “S word,” turning a beautiful moment into a mournful one, says FCB Toronto co-CCO Jeff Hilts. The CDSS wanted to change the dialogue and to make it the celebratory moment it should be.

The agency created a campaign video called the “The ‘S’ Word” that features people with Down syndrome suggesting alternatives to “sorry.” The possibilities range from, “He’s so cute I want to barf” to “Well, there goes your sex life.”

Several of the statements even include profanity in order to show that the only truly inappropriate word is “sorry,” says Hilts. Co-CCO Nancy Crimi-Lamanna adds that the language used helps to showcase the humour and personalities of the cast and of Down syndrome people in a way that challenges stereotypes.

The campaign debuted last week to coincide with Canadian Down Syndrome Week from Nov. 1 to 7.

The CDSS estimates that there were approximately 9,363 babies born with Down syndrome in North America last year. For that reason, the campaign video invites viewers to visit, from which they can share an e-card. If the organization sees more than 9,363 cards shared, it will release a “thank you” video featuring the cast from the campaign spot. The website also encourages people to purchase “Anything but Sorry” cards, with proceeds going to the CDSS.

While the campaign is intended for people struggling with what to say to parents, it also attempts to help parents deal with their own mixed feelings about the situation. Another component of the campaign is directed at doctors, who will receive information by mail that provides advice on how to respond appropriately.

The campaign includes social, paid social and PR, with Glossy handling PR. “Anything But Sorry” also leverages Google Adwords the same way “Down Syndrome Answers” did last year. People searching online for what to say to parents will be directed to videos of individuals with Down syndrome answering the question. An additional six answers were recorded for this year’s campaign.

Last year’s “Down Syndrome Answers” won 10 Lions at Cannes, making it the Canada’s most-awarded campaign at the festival.

Editor’s note: The Canadian Down Syndrome Society has reached its goal of seeing 9,363 cards shared and has released the “thank you” video (above).