NYU nixes controversial awareness ads on child psych ills

Share this article:
Ads mimic ransom notes.
Ads mimic ransom notes.

Bowing to outraged patient advocates, NYU Child Study Center said it will halt its controversial print and outdoor ad campaign aimed at raising awareness of mental health problems in children.

The ads, produced pro-bono by BBDO, take the form of ransom notes from a range of psychiatric disorders including autism, attention defecit hyperactivity disorder, Asperger Syndrome, depression, bulimia and obsessive compuls. Copy opens with the words: “We have your son.” Patient groups said the ads, which appeared in regional publications and on billboards, kiosks and construction sites around New York, reinforced damaging stereotypes, wrongly suggesting that children with autism, Asperger's and other psychiatric disorders are helpless and incapable of functioning in society.

The center's director, Harold Koplewicz, M.D., said in a statement that while the ads got people's attention, they'd become a distraction from the issues they were meant to raise awareness of. “The campaign succeeded in getting people's attention and sparking dialogue, but much of the debate centered on the ads instead of the issues,” said Koplewicz. “Though we meant well, we've come to realize that we unintentionally hurt and offended some people.” He invited critics to contribute their ideas to the dialogue and to the future of the campaign at a virtual “town hall” meeting to be held early in the new year on the campaign's website, AboutOurKids.com.

The ads had originally been slated to run through March. A spokesperson for the center said it was “ending this phase of the campaign and putting some thought into the next phase.” 

Share this article:

Email Newsletters

More in News

Sanofi expands Gaucher disease portfolio

Sanofi expands Gaucher disease portfolio

The oral medication Cerdelga joins Cerezyme in its Fabry disease arsenal. Sanofi expects the drug will be priced "on par" with Cerezyme, which goes for around $300,000 a year in ...

Amicus seeks to upset Fabry market

Amicus seeks to upset Fabry market

Phase-III tests indicate patients may be able to switch from injectable enzyme-replacement therapies, like Fabrazyme, to the firm's oral drug.

Five things for pharma marketers to know: Wednesday, August 20

Five things for pharma marketers to know: Wednesday, ...

Novartis explores the virtual care space, a court has dismissed a lawsuit against IPAB, Doctors Without Borders calls the Ebola outbreak "a complete disaster" and Pfizer becomes the first pharma ...