Raahil Chopra
Jun 24, 2022

"A cute ad, without an action, means nothing"

Tianna Bartoletta. a three-time Olympic Gold winner, was in conversation with VMLY&R Health’s Walter Geer and Claire Gillis.

On day three of the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, a panel consisting of Tianna Bartoletta, a three-time Gold-winning Olympian, Walter Geer, chief experience design officer, VMLY&R Health, and Claire Gillis, CEO, VMLY&R Health, discussed why diversity is a must when it comes to healthcare campaigns.
 
Setting the tone for the discussions, Gillis stated that a black woman has three-four times more danger of not surviving pregnancy in the USA, in comparison to a white woman.
 
The Olympian Bartoletta, who won a Gold in London (2012) and two in Rio de Janeiro (2016), stated that it was the bias in the healthcare system that made her carry her will to the hospital when she was getting admitted to deliver her child.
 
“To talk about the bias in the healthcare system. I had a baby seven months ago, when I went into the hospital, I had a will in the envelope in my bag. I had given a copy to everyone important to me because I wasn’t sure about leaving the hospital alive. If it can happen to me (an Olympian champion with fame), it can happen to anyone,” she said.
 
She went on to add how the healthcare system has a bias toward black women in the USA, with a near-death experience because an illness was not taken seriously and hence not detected.
 
“I was training hard to defend my Gold wins in 2016 ahead of Tokyo 2020. My menstrual cycle had changed and I kept rationalising it by thinking I was training too hard or stressed. Over time, I was getting injuries that wouldn’t heal and the training became harder, which led me to stop making it for my workout sessions,” she recounted.
 
Being part of the Olympic setup, Bartoletta was allowed access to the doctor at the Olympic training centre in the USA.
 
“I went to see the team doctor, where I got my iron tested. It was very low. I got iron infusions, which sorted that out, but my menstrual cycle was still incorrect. I blogged about it and people asked me to see a gynaecologist. I told my team doctor about it, who stated that I didn’t need to. After several visits, I ended up slamming my fist on his desk, demanding that I needed to see a doctor to know what’s going on with my body, without which I could end up dying,” she said.
 
She finally did see a gynaecologist, who revealed there was a large tumour in her uterus which needed to be treated immediately. 
 
The doctor told her that she was three weeks away from a coma.
 
Hearing this, Geer believed that the trauma Bartoletta went through was because of a bias against black women, which needed to change.
 
“There’s a health bias. There are ways of changing it. We need to go to the consumers and inspire them to have the power to speak for themselves. Frankly, not many people speak up like that. You’re an Olympic athlete and still have to speak for your health, which speaks volumes,” stated Geer.
 
He added that the advertising industry needs to understand all of its consumers and their journeys and stated that the technology being created for healthcare also needs to speak to all individuals - which means agencies need to be extremely diverse with their talent acquisition.
 
Calling for disruption, he added, “There have been issues like these for years. We will need to come together as a community and have these uncomfortable conversations to cause that disruption. Please take action and apply it, rather than being part of another conversation.”
 
Rewriting history
 
Bartoletta is currently completing her graduation, as she had paused her education to focus on her career as an athlete.
 
She’s working on a topic around health equity and looking to expose the bias in the healthcare system by highlighting the experiences of coloured people.
 
During this research, she found that James Marion Sims, regarded as the father of gynaecology, noted that black women have thicker skin and hence don’t require anaesthesia during surgeries.
 
“This is what the medical schools are still teaching and 80% of university students believe that black women have 80% thicker skin. The system is based on this faulty assumption,” she said.
 
To change this and displace other myths, Bartoletta claimed that the fight has to be fought by the individuals themselves.
 
The duo then shared a disruptive thought each, that could make a difference.
 
Bartoletta claimed it was imperative to revisit the curriculum at medical schools.“We need to burn some books and review what and how we are learning.” 
 
Geer, on the other hand, stated that while technology is great, not everyone is using it, and so in the healthcare system, brands must keep in mind that not everyone is matching the speed of technology, and could be left behind.
 
In closing, Bartoletta added that brands need to go beyond the ‘cute ad’.
 
“Trust is earned as well. It is something that needs to be practised. It comes down to the messaging and the messaging being in action. If you just see a cute ad, without action, it means nothing”, she said.
Source:
Campaign India

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