Why Casey House created new episodes of Friends and The Office

The re-edited episodes aim to give more reach to the non-profit's mission of breaking through stigma of HIV/AIDS.


Casey House is using pop culture and TV shows like Friends and The Office to continue its mission to educate and normalize the issue of HIV/AIDS.

“People can see it for what it is now and how far we have come. HIV/AIDS is a manageable disease, it is no longer a death sentence like it once was,” says Joanne Simons, CEO of Casey House. “How we treat HIV has come a long way, but how we treat people with HIV hasn’t.”

This campaign, which is primarily online and consists of a social media plan, is the bi-product of Casey House – with the help of agencies Bensimon Byrne, Narrative and OneMethod – poring over hundreds of hours of Friends and The Office to create two new episodes by re-editing them. One shows Joey’s ignorance when Chandler reveals he has HIV and the other shows a toxic work environment when Oscar tells people at work he’s living with the disease.

“While we may be diverse, and unique in so many ways, pop culture has the ability to unite us,” says Joseph Bonnici, partner and executive creative director at Bensimon Byrne. “Both Friends and The Office have stood the test of time, are gaining new audiences by the day and are universally enjoyed around the globe.  Our goal with this campaign is to educate, inform and create more understanding of HIV/AIDS today.”

Bonnici adds that the target for this campaign is “everyone,” a “global multi-generational audience” – which is also why it went with a digital campaign, as opposed to the Toronto-based experiential campaigns the agency has created for Casey House in the past. He also notes that both of these shows cross generations of Baby Boomers, Gen Xer’s, Millennials, and their children. Even though the agency didn’t reach out for permission to use the footage, the hope is that the message and intent of the campaign will prevent any backlash [UPDATE: The Friends episode has since been taken down after receiving a DMCA notice from the U.S., more information and statement below].

While the new campaign gets away from its “hands-on” approach of past years, Simons notes that it still fits the brand positioning Casey House has set through previous initiatives, like helping open an eatery and spa staffed by HIV-positive people.

“Casey House was founded on activism and it continues to embrace its activist roots worldwide,” she says. “Each year we take bold step forwards to eradicate stigma and this year is no exception.”

There videos are hosted on the “Smash Stigma” official website, along with videos in the new “Untold Stories of Stigma” branded documentary series, which interviews people about their experiences with HIV/AIDS, providing a “real-life” look at stigma to round out the fictional accounts in the re-edited episodes. The campaign also includes PR, influencer outreach and paid social media across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and Wattpad.

Update, Feb. 21, 4 p.m.

While the custom episode of The Office remains online, a takedown notice under U.S. online copyright laws has resulted in the Friends episode being taken offline, though Casey House is currently trying to rally support with companies and actors involved for its cause.

Bonnici tells strategy that after receiving a takedown notice for the “Losing Friends” video, Casey House received a call from Warner Bros.’ legal team expressing how they were supportive of the cause, but that the brand should speak with specific external parties who might be of assistance in its quest to receive permission to re-upload the “Losing Friends” video to the “Smash Stigma” official website.

The purpose, Bonnici notes, is to help the IP stakeholders further understand the rationale behind the video – to provide context about Casey House’s history of fighting stigma. If those with content rights authority agree with Casey House’s rationale behind the video, then Casey House can re-upload the video.

Casey House’s full statement can be found below:

Unfortunately we had to remove our adaptation episode of Friends, “Losing Friends” from smashstigma.ca after receiving a takedown notice under the U.S. Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) issued by Warner Bros. Casey House has spoken with Warner Bros., and we are contacting the cast members and producers of Friends to get them on board and supportive of this important cause.

Our (very funny) adaptation of The Office, The Toxic Office is still up on smashstigma.ca as is our docuseries, The Untold Stories of Stigma. We encourage everyone to go there and share the site with your readers/viewers.

Casey House created these adaptations to help educate the world on the stigma that surrounds HIV/AIDS that is now more deadly than the disease.

This is a great example of how collectively, if we can work together, we can be the catalyst for change that we need.