Use your imagination

MIRA is an organization that provides guide dogs and service dogs to people with disabilities. Before stumbling on their most recent campaign, I had a very limited understanding of service dogs. Mostly, I had assumed that they are used by people with visual disabilities (because of pop culture references, from what we have all seen in films).

But after going through their website (because of the new campaign), I was able to add more perspectives – about the use of service dogs and guide dogs, for 3 kinds of purposes: guide dogs for the blind, service dogs for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and service dogs for people with reduced mobility.

The way they depict the 3 programs through an intuitive logo is brilliant, in the way it juxtaposes dogs’ imagery within human faculties!

The new campaign, by the agency Publicis (Montreal, Canada) is incredible! To address the problem of shops and establishments refusing entry to the guide dogs and service dogs (possibly owing to shops that need to be explicitly ‘pet-friendly’ to allow such entry to dogs) they use a really strong visual imagery to showcase the importance of those dogs in the life of a person with a disability!

These dogs can hardly be categorized as ‘pets’ and behave more like an extended faculty of the human companion they live with! I found the creative device really hard-hitting!

Two really touching observations in this theme:

One – it forces you to think with empathy, towards people with disabilities. It makes you imagine the plight of a physically handicapped person walking into the shop without his/her prosthetic limb, white cane or walking aids! It’s all in your mind, but that’s what makes it so powerful because you are in their shoes (no pun intended at all whatsoever). The visual literally enables you to imagine and fill the narrative.

We talk of ‘engagement’ as the holy grail of digital/social media communications and define it in very obvious measures like Likes, Shares and Comments, things we can visibly see and count. But consider the engagement in a creative like this – the entire ‘engagement’ happens inside the audience’s mind and is not verbalized in any way! The audience sees the creative, wonders why something as essential as a white cane (used by people with visual impairment) is left outside the shop, like an umbrella! And then they read the hugely impactful caption below… and realize the importance of the cause they are talking about… with a bang! It’s a conversation, initiated through the print ad, that goes on inside the mind of the reader!

Two – it also demonstrates the amount of trust we humans place on a dog! These are specially trained dogs, no doubt, but the fact that this species has it in them to be so sensitive to the less able section of our species is incredibly moving! What we consider as a dog or a pet, is literally one of the 5 senses for a visually impaired person! And necessary support to people with other forms of disabilities.

I consider myself to be a cat person. I love dogs too and all animals, but relate to the quality in cats that makes them so close to humans – that they are selfish and think so full of themselves first, before anything. This is the extreme opposite of dogs that think of their human companions first, which becomes their weakness. Both routes are important from an evolutionary purpose – cats continue to exist because they can take care of themselves, while dogs continue to exist because they align so well with humans that they make us take care of them.
Digression ends.)

The most awkward part of the campaign—yes, there is one!—is the video!

The print ad left the imagination to us. We may restrict our imagination (depending on our inherent decency) to a slightly more sensitive level, not going into the innards of their discomfort and pain, to this level, and still empathize with them.

The opposite of this is much like how Steven Spielberg’s Jaws didn’t show the actual shark for the longest time, building the fear in our minds only using our own imagination! There, we amplified our fear for the shark!

But the video version of the MIRA’s ad is so literal that it seems so very insensitive (though that’s the whole point, I fully get it). I also understand that for some people the subtle print ad version may work and for many others, this message perhaps needs to be told in a rather literal manner, as in the video version.

I felt that it doesn’t show/depict its core benefactors with dignity, and perhaps shows them to the broader world in very poor light (even if that is the truth). The very reason they seek the help of a prosthetic limb, white cane or walking aid is to not feel ‘dis’abled in front of others, and feel confident that they are on their own (within their means), in front of their world.  Even if this video’s intention is to shame those who deny them this right, it does so with a creative device that shames the core benefactors for what they are. The visual/print version does it with a lot more restraint, gracefully.