Organ Donor Register: When it is better to receive than to give

Principal Author: Ila De Mello Kamath, AMV BBDO
Contributing Author: Bridget Angear, AMV BBDO

Executive summary

Our task was to increase the number of registrations on the Organ Donor Register (ODR) from 16 million to 25 million by 2013, in three years. Specifically, to generate 37,600 registrations in the first five weeks.1 An extremely tough challenge, because not only did our campaign have to be eight times more effective than other health campaigns,2 but we had to get people to confront the idea of death and challenge deep-set beliefs about mortality. On our journey we discovered that organ donation is not about donation but reciprocation; that we will give because we want to receive. We learnt from vampire bats (Figure 2) that we had been looking at our problem the wrong way around, which led us to ask the right question about organ donation: not ‘would you be willing to give an organ?’ but ‘would you be willing to receive an organ?’. Reciprocal altruism gave us a powerful insight that motivated people to register by finding a balance between self-interest and empathy and delivered results that will save lives.

And it worked