New York, like the country as a whole, is grappling with an ongoing blood shortage, which has forced blood donation organizations to appeal for more donors.

In a bid to boost the number of blood donations among young people, the New York Blood Center Enterprises (NYBCe) recently rolled out its Extra Life campaign 

Designed to capture the nostalgia of 1990s video games and mimic their old-school feel, Extra Life features several 30-second videos that show high school and college students gaining a sense of motivation, appreciation and positivity from donating blood.

Creative agency Markham Yard, as well as film production company SixTwentySix, collaborated with NYBCe to produce the campaign.

One campaign ad shows a college student running through their day as though they were in a video game. 

The student hits milestones like “You’re late” in the morning, “Better luck next time” after receiving a poor grade, and “Cringe overload” during an awkward situation. However, the day appears to get better after the student donates blood and provides a critical resource to those in need.

“Get your blood in the game, and unlock the cheat code to a better day,” a voiceover states. “Donate blood today, and save up to three lives in one hour.”

The campaign will be rolled out across video, digital and social media — including platforms like TikTok, Instagram, Twitch, YouTube and CTV.

To start, Extra Life will roll out on the East Coast before being released nationally. The campaign will also include Extra Life giveaway posters distributed at high schools, colleges and blood drives.

Image courtesy New York Blood Center Enterprises.
Image courtesy New York Blood Center Enterprises.

“Today’s youth live in a world saturated with advertising and messaging, making them unparalleled experts in detecting marketing and ad-speak,” the media release noted. “To tackle the urgent issue of plummeting youth blood donations, the campaign designed by this creative team authentically resonates with the youth generation by creatively tapping into classic video game nostalgia to capture the essence of youth, empowerment, and pixelated wonder.”

The COVID-19 pandemic led to a significant drop in blood donations, including a 50% decrease in youth blood donations. For NYBCe, that translates to an annual loss of about 20,000 youth blood donations.

Despite the gradual renormalization of society post-COVID, the world still hasn’t quite caught up to what the rate was before. NYBCe noted in a media release that high school blood drives are still operating below pre-pandemic levels.

Other blood donor organizations have leaned into nostalgia in appealing to youth donors throughout the year. 

In April, the American Red Cross partnered with “Peanuts” to encourage people to donate blood, generating significant traction on TikTok. 

People who donated blood at American Red Cross blood donation sites received a T-shirt featuring Snoopy donning sunglasses and leaning against the organization’s iconic logo. Underneath him read the text: “Be cool. Give blood.”