Between 2013 and 2016, Princeton University became the first of six US colleges with an outbreak of meningitis B. While uncommon, the disease can cause death within 24 hours, and in survivors, limb loss or brain damage. While uncommon, meningitis B peaks at age 19 in those aged 10-25 years, prime college age, and is spread by typical sharing behaviour, through drinks, food, or kissing. Initial symptoms seem like the flu, so it’s hard to diagnose.
An existing vaccine (for meningitis groups A, C, W, and Y but NOT B) created a false sense of security in parents who thought their kids had been vaccinated and were protected. These parents were unaware that their children were not vaccinated against menB. Vaccination could help protect against meningitis B. Since there was no vaccine available, the FDA accelerated approval and TRUMENBA was quickly made available. Then the TRUMENBA team set out to educate moms on this gap and motivate them to vaccinate.
We told a true story. Or stories. We heard from multiple mothers who had a child with meningitis B. A happy, healthy kid in the prime of his/her life suddenly doesn’t feel well. It looks like the flu. But it gets worse, then scary, and then the mother is alone in a hospital room… terrified she’ll lose her child.
We needed to make that story compelling to every parent of a teenager, in one 60-second TV spot. So instead of focusing on a child with meningitis getting sicker and sicker, we turned it around. We started with the moment when we’re not sure if the child will survive, then took a 24-hour journey in reverse, searching for the catalyst to this deadly situation. The boy gets healthier and healthier until that frightening moment that explains how easy it is to be brought to the verge of death. An innocent kiss.