The Gammy Awards

Opinion piece clip-art iconAn article entitled Pity Porn on The Stringer website drew our attention to The Gammy Awards, one of the more interesting disability websites we’ve seen in a while.

The complete article is fairly lengthy but one part of it focuses on a truly awful publicity campaign recently run by the Multiple Sclerosis foundation of WA.

At the centre of the campaign was a TV ad called “Trapped”, which was so awful the ad was removed within hours of its release. You can watch the entire abominable 45 seconds of it right here.

On a positive note, that led to the discovery of the truly awesome website, The Gammy Awards.

The Gammy Awards are “the annual tragedy in charity advertising awards for disability organisations.” The cover print media, radio and TV advertising – both the good and the bad.

But back to the original article about the “Trapped” ad.

Here’s some of it’s pithier quotes:

Enter the Multiple Sclerosis of WA.

Imagine the shiniest of charities, with a glossy annual report, a 30 million dollar turnover, ongoing raffles and charity houses and sparkling six bed ‘facilities’ for young people broken out of nursing homes. The ‘business of disability’ is prominent in their advertising and the board is predominantly made up of people with business and financial management acumen, with a couple of high profile medical professionals and a few people with multiple sclerosis.

That’s the organisation that created the ad that hit the headlines a few days ago. It was a confronting and controversial TV ad, part of a bigger advertising campaign, designed to strike fear into the hearts of the community and tug on their heart strings. The ad, named ‘Trapped’, portrayed a woman trapped in a Perspex box, desperately trying to smash her way out. Cut to a sympathetic nurse asking if she is all right – the woman sits in a wheelchair, unable to move, and a single tear trickles down her cheek.

People with multiple sclerosis were outraged. One woman in the early stages of MS slammed the ad saying it “put fear into her kids”.

“This is a terrible ad…It put fear into my kiddies as my disease is nothing on that level… And to say if I ever meet a partner being open with my health … He run a mile thinking I’ll end up in that state…. I’m disappointed … U made my disease look so horrific.”

Another person with MS said the ad was “shocking”.

“What exactly are you ppl trying to achieve???? Decrease our work opportunities ? Traumatize our children with the worst case scenario. What if the Cancer Council used the same low tactics?”

Within hours, the ad was removed, with CEO Marcus Stafford posting a sombre apology for removing the ad and distressing members.


The entire article is well worth a read. So is Fear For Sale, a detailed article on charity advertising we found on The Gammy Awards website.

Oh, and just so there’s no hard feelings toward the MS Society, here’s quite a positive ad produced by the MS society of SA & NT. See, positive messages can be done!

Original articles: