FINDING TRUE NORTH
The advertising agency translated these insights into a wonderful campaign that built on the idea that even if contributors and walkers are too humble to think of themselves as Heroes, the thousands of children whose lives they have saved are more than eager to think of their benefactors as heroic ﬁgures, and the cause they have served is heroic, indeed. Child after child is featured in posters, print ads, and brochures that show actual situations in which a baby whose life was endangered was saved by surfactant therapy, folic acid supplements, or special neonatal equipment made available by the March of Dimes. And in each case, the headline proclaims that even if you don’t think you’re a hero, “Jennifer does.” Perhaps most dramatic was a television commercial inspired by the insights the March of Dimes gained. It began with the pounding feet of dozens, then hundreds, and then thousands of walkers—the heroic “army,” ﬁghting for children. As the walkers turn a corner around a building, the camera slowly pans up its side, focusing on a window in which we view a tiny infant hooked up to lifesaving neonatal equipment, and we hear another pounding sound: the pounding of the baby’s heart. The point is clear, and it is powerful: Unknowingly, the walkers just below that window are saving that baby’s life.
The Hero’s Journey Critical elements of the March of Dimes campaign naturally reﬂect the classical story of the Hero’s journey, which Joseph Campbell so eloquently identiﬁed as the pattern reoccurring in the great epochs and religious stories throughout the ages and, in fact, the trajectory that will describe our lives, should we pursue the heroic course. Campbell, later interpreted by Chris Vogler, identiﬁed key elements of the Heroes’ journey, mirrored in the Walk America communication: THE HERO STARTS OUT IN AN ORDINARY WORLD
Throughout the year, potential walkers go about their day-to-day business, hardly feeling heroic.