AstraZeneca‘s Arimidex-branded Celebration Chain offers friends and family the opportunity to ‘honour special women in [their] lives who have overcome or are fighting breast cancer, and to celebrate their unique, endearing qualities’.
Users begin by creating a ‘Celebration Doll’:
Next, they personalize the skin tone, hair, and outfit of their doll:
Finally, they select up to 4 ‘celebration options’ and an accompanying soundtrack:
Users can then email an invitation to the recipient to view a Flash animation of their ‘Celebration Doll’ engaged in their ‘celebration options’. Subsequent supporters can send the individual represented by the doll virtual hugs with personalized messages.
This low-grade patient support vehicle is a similar concept to that utilized by the Novartis Oncology CML earth site, but (in my opinion) nowhere near as effective. To date, the site proclaims the fact that ‘18,640 women have [received] 31,616 celebrations from their family and friends,’ but I’m struggling to see why they’d bother.
Perhaps the first point to make is that the site is aimed at relatives and acquaintances of those who have experienced or currently have breast cancer, not the individuals themselves. The creators doubtless see their invitations as a gesture of solidarity to show that the person in question is in their thoughts.
That’s all good.
What is less good is the fact this site in no way captures the diversity of experience that each breast cancer patient passes through that affects not only them, but also everyone whose lives they touch. Theirs is a spectrum of experience that may engender inspiration, hope, strength, but may also encounter dejection, despair and frailty. The latter should not be shied away from, and the site’s relentlessly upbeat tone (even its name) denies them the right to acknowledge the totality of their experience. None of the latter are conditions unique to the breast cancer patient: they are part of the wider human condition, and for all of us at some point, the unfortunate but inevitable corollary to the difficult business of being alive.
Far from celebrating a breast cancer patient’s individuality, Celebration Chain robs them of it.
Everything about this initiative positively screams “CORPORATE-BLAND” at me, from the teeth-grindingly awful music that pollutes the site, to the conservative outfits users are forced to clothe their dolls in, to the prim-and-proper hairstyles (scarf excluded), and the dull, dull soundtrack and celebration options. And by the way: men get breast cancer, too.
Know a 20-something Emo type with piercings, a fashionable crop, very particular taste in their clothes, music, and pastimes, and breast cancer? They’re not going to appreciate your sending them this Stepford Wives-styled ‘celebration doll’, unless they have a particularly refined sense of the ironic. They may also raise an eyebrow at the fact that AstraZeneca is offering to donate ‘$1, up to a total of $25,000, to a breast cancer charity’ for every doll created in light of the fact that Arimidex generated revenues of $1,857M (+3% against prior year) in 2008.
This is old pharma thinking in a (barely) new media setting, as coldly mechanistic and inhuman as the eerie, faceless celebration dolls themselves.
A better solution for any pharma company wanting to engage with the breast cancer community (or indeed any patient community) would be: create a sponsored community space where those with breast cancer can make connections, share experiences, support one another, celebrate their individuality, but also feel included as part of a bigger community.
There are as many stories to be told about breast cancer as there are people with breast cancer.
Let them be people. Don’t make them be patients.