Movie advertisements condemn restrictive blood donation rules

All Types Welcome's online advertisement campaign for the movie Jigsaw features eight social media stars dressed as off-kilter nurses and encourages people to donate blood.
All Types Welcome's online advertisement campaign for the movie Jigsaw features eight social media stars dressed as off-kilter nurses and encourages people to donate blood.PHOTO: TIM PALEN/INSTAGRAM

LOS ANGELES • How do you get movie fans' blood racing for the newest Saw instalment? By asking them again to donate blood, ahead of the massive blood loss - on screen.

The last Saw movie, released by Lionsgate in 2010, was advertised as "the final chapter".

But you did not think a franchise with roughly US$1 billion (S$1.35 billion) in worldwide ticket sales was going to die that easily, did you?

The series will resume its torture killings on Oct 27 with an R-rated eighth instalment titled Jigsaw.

On Sunday, the studio's chief brand officer Tim Palen began rolling out an online advertising campaign called All Types Welcome.

The initiative has eight social media stars dressed as off-kilter nurses and encourages people to donate blood in preparation for Jigsaw.

All Types Welcome's online advertisement campaign for the movie Jigsaw features eight social media stars dressed as off-kilter nurses and encourages people to donate blood.
All Types Welcome’s online advertisement campaign for the movie Jigsaw features eight social media stars dressed as off-kilter nurses and encourages people to donate blood. PHOTO: TIM PALEN/INSTAGRAM

The drive starts on Oct 5 in New York and expands to 25 cities in the following weeks.

Lionsgate initially came up with the idea in 2004 to generate buzz for the first Saw.

Perhaps inspired by William Castle, the 1950s-era horror film director and promotional gimmick king, who once sent nurses to theatres in case anyone died of fright, Mr Palen organised similar blood drives for the next five Saw movies.

By 2009, these stunts, each with a different nurse theme, resulted in so many donations - some 120,000 pints - that the American Red Cross gave him an award.

But times change and he is now taking a more antagonistic approach.

All Types Welcome is also a condemnation of blood donation rules set by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that prohibit most gay or bisexual men from giving.

Before donating, they have to forgo same-sex sexual encounters for at least a year, a contentious precaution resulting from concerns about HIV.

FDA spokesman Lyndsay Meyer noted that the celibacy rule, enacted in 2015, replaced a more restrictive policy.

"While acknowledging at the time that the change to a 12-month deferral was less than hoped for by some, the FDA considered this to be a first step," she said, adding that studies are under way to "help inform further changes to policy".

The Red Cross, the nation's largest blood supplier, has also drawn fire for its approach to transgender donors. Until recently, federal guidelines recommended that transgender people be required to register at blood centres under the gender they were assigned at birth.

All Types Welcome's online advertisement campaign for the movie Jigsaw features eight social media stars dressed as off-kilter nurses and encourages people to donate blood.
All Types Welcome’s online advertisement campaign for the movie Jigsaw features eight social media stars dressed as off-kilter nurses and encourages people to donate blood. PHOTO: TIM PALEN/INSTAGRAM

"The Red Cross believes all potential blood donors should be treated with fairness, equality and respect," Ms Jodi Sheedy, a Red Cross spokesman, said.

Mr Palen is one of Hollywood's savviest marketeers and his latest campaign reflects several trends, including a focus on diversity.

In the past, he has cast young women (most often white) as nurse mascots for the Saw blood drives.

"Now, we have different races, genders, ages and sexual orientations," he said.

While inclusion remains far from Hollywood's strength, many consumer brands have started to loudly ring the representation bell. Last year, CoverGirl named its first "cover boy" and made a beauty blogger, Nura Afia, its first hijab-wearing cosmetics ambassador.

It is also notable that Mr Palen is tapping the rage culture. Hollywood marketeers are mostly allergic to controversy, but nothing lights a fire on social media like indignation, and a growing number of advertisers are trying to spark thought-provoking discussions.

The North Face, for instance, indirectly references US President Donald Trump's plans for a Mexico border wall with its new Walls Are Meant For Climbing brand campaign.

But the topical approach can backfire. Just ask Pepsi and Kendall Jenner - they drew flak for trivialising the issue of police brutality in the US.

"It's easy to be provocative," Mr Palen said. "It's less easy to be provocative in a way that inspires people to see your movie."

NYTIMES

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 26, 2017, with the headline 'Movie advertisements condemn restrictive blood donation rules'. Print Edition | Subscribe