April 30, 2014 at 3:36 PM ET
For children with cancer, it can be difficult when treatment causes hair loss. So a Brazil-based campaign united some of pop culture’s most famous characters to inspire kids and bring awareness to the stigma they often feel.
Bald Cartoons, created by the advertising agency Ogilvy Brazil in partnership with Sao Paulo children’s cancer institute GRAAC, depicts popular cartoon characters without their hair, to communicate the idea that “a child with cancer deserves to be seen just like any other child.”
“A child relates (to) a cartoon as much as they do (to) family and friends,” said Roberto Fernandez, executive creative officer at Ogilvy Brazil. “So we thought in changing the behavior of the cartoons...(we) inspire the kids fighting cancer to feel better about their look, and also to inspire everyone around (them) to feel the same way.”
The campaign kicked off in November to coincide with the country’s National Childhood Cancer Day on Nov. 23, and was an instant success, receiving a Twitter shoutout from Brazil’s president, Dilma Rousseff. Due to its popularity in Brazil, the movement went global this month, incorporating 40 characters into its campaign, including iconic figures such as Snoopy, Garfield, Hello Kitty and the stars of Rio 2. The Bald Cartoons website features posters, comic strips and short videos depicting the characters with bare heads.
In a video, filmed at GRAAC Hospital, kids undergoing treatment discuss what their hair used to look like. Then, a group of kids undergoing treatment react while watching an episode of popular Brazilian cartoon "Monica’s Gang." Little eyes light up, and one little girl points at the bald character on screen and then at herself.
“I thought that if I took my hat off at school people would laugh, but now I don’t feel that anymore,” said one boy in the video, who took off his baseball cap and grinned.
“You have to be proud of each and every bald kid you see, because this person is fighting for life,” a teenage girl said. “And I think this is pretty dignifying.”
Jeremy Shatan, executive director at the Hope & Heroes Children's Cancer Fund, lauds Bald Cartoon's goals, but also questions if the campaign is doing enough.
"This is a nice thing they’re doing and it may make some children feel better and be treated better by their peers," he said. "However, these kind of 'feel good' campaigns can distract from what is really necessary: increased funding for research to improve treatments and expand our understanding of these diseases, and resources for families who are financially devastated by having a child with cancer. The campaign would have more impact if it tied with something that could change the lives of children with cancer in a substantial way."