|Story|| An unfortunate truth is that many believe Alzheimer’s is just memory loss when it’s actually a fatal disease for 47 million people worldwide. Every 66 seconds someone develops Alzheimer’s. It kills more than breast cancer and prostate cancer combined. Yet Alzheimer’s often remains out of the news and social media conversation. The Pure Imagination Project was a pro bono initiative seeking to bring widespread attention to the effects of this devastating disease, the need for imagination in finding a cure, and awareness of The Alzheimer’s Association’s efforts. We were inspired by one of Alzheimer’s best-known victims in one of his most iconic roles: Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka performing “Pure Imagination” in Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory. Recognizing the urgency of The Alzheimer’s Association’s mission, the Gene Wilder estate, Warner Brothers, and Universal Music Group gave permission to visually reimagine the classic 1971 film for the first time.
To raise awareness of Alzheimer’s and the need for imagination in finding a cure, we want to engage The Alzheimer’s Association’s core audience of caregivers and advocates. But we also must raise awareness among those not yet affected by the disease or too young to think they need to care about it. We need to touch people on an emotional level and inspire action by making it easier to understand the effects of Alzheimer’s. Adding the connection of losing Gene Wilder to this devastating disease only tugs on the heartstrings further.
“Pure Imagination” and its message about the power of imagination is one of the most inspirational songs of all time. Written for the 1971 film, Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory, and sung by Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka, the song and movie scene are intrinsically linked, so only Wilder’s original performance could be used. As the candy-filled world of Wonka’s imagination is made to visually disappear piece by piece to parallel the effects of Alzheimer’s disease, the music fills us with hope and the belief that anything is possible with imagination — including a world without Alzheimer’s.
The Pure Imagination Project made a profound difference, increasing conversation about Alzheimer’s using #PureImagination during the vital National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month and holiday giving season. Being a nonprofit with limited ability to provide support, the initiative relied heavily on getting viewed and shared through owned and earned media. The Pure Imagination Project garnered over 2 million video views and 786.4 million media impressions worth $27.5 million in earned media. Regarding The Pure Imagination Project, Karen Wilder said, “When I saw this campaign, I knew that it brilliantly and beautifully captured all that Alzheimer’s can take away, and my hope is that it will motivate people to learn more and to seek to change the course of this disease for future generations.” Perhaps it’s no coincidence that Gene Wilder, as Willy Wonka, wore a purple coat and that purple is the color of the Alzheimer’s movement.
The Pure Imagination Project launched as an integrated digital, social, and PR initiative during National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month (U.S.) in November. The video was shared via the Alzheimer’s Association’s website, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, with additional social sharing by local chapters, celebrities, and influencer advocates. Launching on The Alzheimer’s Association’s social networks gave the video credibility and a support base for sharing to spread from. The engaging remake of the “Pure Imagination” scene, with its magically disappearing candy and surprisingly dark yet hopeful twist, was edited to an optimal length for social sharing and mass media coverage. The video and an essay by Karen Wilder, who was inspired by the project to join the fight against Alzheimer’s, gained coverage by media outlets such as Adweek, Ad Age, The Drum, ABC News, USA Today, Rolling Stone, Entertainment Weekly, Vanity Fair, People, The Doctors, The Independent, Daily Mail, and RTE.
The classic “Pure Imagination” scene from Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory was visually reimagined to make the candy-filled world of Wonka’s imagination disappear slowly piece by piece, then exponentially faster until there is nothing left, drawing a poignant parallel to the effects of Alzheimer’s. As Gene Wilder sings “Pure Imagination,” giant lollipops, chocolate waterfalls, candy canes, gummy bears, gumballs, licorice, and cream-filled mushrooms vanish right in front of the children and their parents. Even the edible tulip Wonka sips from disappears out of his hands. A foreboding yet inspiring message appears on screen: “Alzheimer’s can steal your imagination piece by piece. But with your help, imagine how we can end it.” Wilder then returns on screen singing, “Come with me, and you’ll be, in a world of pure imagination,” as all the candy quickly reappears and the chocolate factory comes back to life, filling viewers with hope and possibility.|