January is coming to a close. This, of course, is great news to most! As January tends to be the time when you’re either testing your self control with a detox of some sort, or still recovering from Christmas spending. But January does have a bright side to it, a red side in fact! It’s National Blood Donor Month! So, let’s talk about blood, inside of us and around us in advertising! 

In our office, just under a third of our bbd’ers have donated blood in their lives – be this once in their life, or every 6 months. Giving blood is not an easy donation really. When it comes to putting a couple of coins into a pot, that’s a quick job, straight from your pocket. Giving blood can take up to ten minutes, and comes straight from your arm. It is invasive, there’s no side stepping around that. You are giving a part of you. A pint of you, to be exact. But, that donation from you is the stepping stone to saving a life. 

A lack of time and a fear of needles quickly seems to be not quite a good enough reason to not donate, when you begin to consider how much it can do. England alone needs 1.6 million pints of blood every year to meet patients’ needs.  To do this, we require 200,000 new donors annually. 

These stats show a great need, but do they really put things into perspective? We all know it’s the right thing to do, and that it’s great to donate blood. But we don’t really talk about where the blood goes? How many pints someone actually needs? The NHS Give Blood shares stories of everyday fighters that I think brings the magnitude of this more to life. Evie for example, she’s 4 years old, and she’s already received 60 pints of blood. Or Natasha, who needed 39 pints during an emergency c-section. Roanna, 250 pints over two years, to stay alive. 

It is not a case of one pint for one life.

Bloody advertising, always getting involved. Or is it?

It’s time to get under the skin of this… Is it just a lack of time and fear of pain that stops us from giving blood? Or is it also the lack of conversation around blood as a whole? We work in the advertising world, so let’s see what role advertising has to play on the topic. 

Firstly, there is no explicit ruling against blood in advertising, but golly we REALLY don’t like to show it. Not even the ASA has a rule against it in terms of indecency. Admittedly, other forms of media also have a big role to play… as a key part of the majority of horror/gore themed media is blood. So, yes, that part of the fear makes sense. But blood is actually perfectly natural and it is a part of every living thing. 

Can you name an advert that includes blood? How about blood in a positive light where it isn’t the bad guy? No? Didn’t think so… Even within the most recent NHS Give Blood advertisement (2018), blood is represented through the metaphor of milk. It’s a beautiful use of a metaphor, it normalises blood and brings it into a not so scary light! The message is brought across that there is a daily need. But, blood is not shown, AGAIN. 

Even us women, are only just starting to feel more comfortable talking about blood when it comes to periods. We were using blue liquid to represent menstrual blood ?! We don’t release car-coolant once a month down there…  BodyForm and sister brand Libresse have strived during the last decade to create progress within menstrual taboo with their two major campaigns ‘Blood’ and ‘#BloodNormal’. The ‘Blood’ campaign however only contained representations of women bleeding due to injuries from various activities, so there was still an estrangement to menstrual blood. The ‘#BloodNormal’ campaign on the other hand, the love letter to periods, was the first advertisement to step away from the shame of menstrual blood. 

How can brands support, not suppress?

We’re not saying everyone needs to splatter blood up and down every ad, so that people feel forced into normalisation… but some support would be a start. Whether it’s being honest about blood, or taking a stance together on how important donation is, we can all do our bit. Even by posting a blog on the topic – you’re spreading awareness! 

But if you want an A+ in support… Check this out: 

Back in 2016, letters were dropped worldwide! Put that A, O and B away! The #MissingType campaign. Wowzer, what a powerful stance. Brands across the globe came together to raise awareness about blood donation, following a 30% decrease in donations earlier in the decade.  21 countries, 25 blood services, 24,000 new donors in the UK. 

Image result for #missingtype campaign

Time to pull our sleeves up folks!

In summary, let’s stop making a fuss about blood for the wrong reasons. We need to talk about it more yes, but with less squeals or pale faces. We need to normalise blood in conversation, for the sake of those who need it most. Because it’s not a scary topic for them, what scares them is probably the reason why they need the extra blood.

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