Dentsu Creative's 'Second Chance Champions' and organ donation

By Ruby Derrick | 16 November 2023
Rezwan Mohammed and Dentsu's Liam Bagnall.

Dentsu Creative’s ‘Second Chance Champions’ was an idea that began in January to start an important conversation around organ donation.

The agency created a documentary which tells the story of athletes competing in the World Transplant Games held in Perth earlier this year, on 10 and 10 Play on November 17.

It's about raising awareness of organ donation and helping honour the legacies of organ donors and those that receive this life-changing gift.

Liam Bagnall, creative director at Dentsu Creative told AdNews that the documentary was a way for the agency to tell stories that could impact other people and take them away from the traditional lens they view organ transplants through -- which is hospitals and surgery -- and rather showing people this through what has become one of the most popular forms of media, sports and entertainment.

“It took us away from it being overly heavy and made it more of an inspirational and uplifting story. It felt like an incredible culmination of themes that just all came together," he said. 

Dentsu Creative ANZ copywriter Monique Horsley and art director Kean Szczur are both into sports and happened to stumble across the World Transplant Games, said Sarah McGregor, ECD at Dentsu Creative.  

“They had the same reaction that we all have, which is ‘oh my god, this is amazing. Why haven't I heard of this?’ We knew we could use it to promote organ donation because it's so positive; it’s showing the after, not the before, and nobody really does that," said McGregor. 

When the creatives showed McGregor the idea she immediately said yes.  

"And then when Liam became involved he had a vision that this could be so much more and here it is,” she said. 

Bagnall said traditionally, people are generally quite afraid to talk about death and don’t want to imagine themselves getting sick, which is understandable. 

“What we've created with Second Chance Champions is a vehicle that is inspirational, and stories of people that are very familiar to everyone. It was important when we made this film that it had to feel like anyone that you see could be you holding up a mirror to anyone that you know," he said. 

For the conversations to carry on afterwards, there needed to be a connection to the people within the film to bring that over, notes Bagnall. 

“If something were to happen to me, I would want my organs to help someone else and save lives and families. It’s those simple conversations that will make such a difference,” he said. 

McGregor notes the impact talking to one’s family has for those considering organ donation.  

Strategically, she said, an important message of this project was to get families having conversations after watching it. That’s why Dentsu Creative chose a documentary, and one which would be broadcast on Channel 10. 

“We wanted to put it in people’s living rooms so they would discuss it afterwards.There’s a sobering statistic that if you’re on the organ donor registry and you’ve spoken to your family, when you die, they have final say if your organs are actually donated or not,” she said. 

The completion rate is 90%. Most families say yes because they understand your wishes. But if you haven’t had that conversation, the rate drops to 40%. We believe it’s because it hasn’t been discussed.” 

Second Chance Champions is designed to promote that conversation because that will make the difference, says McGregor.  

“Yes, we've got to get more people on the organ donor registry, but we've got to also get them having that vital conversation if we want some of the 1800 people who are currently waiting to get off that list and get a second chance at life.” 

The documentary steers away from the traditional portrayal of transplant recipients in hospitals and instead focuses on those receiving the gift of life.  

This came down to the people Dentsu chose to feature in the film, the richness in their journeys to pull the audience in across a full feature, said Bagnall. 

“Rezwan had a very difficult upbringing. It was important for us to highlight a positive refugee story, as well as the difficulties of organ transplants when someone is raised in that kind of environment,” he said.  

The only medicine Rezwan could receive when he was in that situation was Panadol, which inadvertently makes kidneys worse, notes Bagnall.  

“He got lucky that his family were able to bring him to Australia. The original reason he was to come was for his brother’s heart condition.  

Sadly his brother passed away just before they came, but he was still allowed to come to Australia and he used his experience, not to just want to save lives, but to also become a nurse and to go on and save even more families,” he said.  

There’s his incredible story, said Bagnall, which also played off against the fact that he had to be on the waiting list for more than two years. 

"It shows that reality of people who have a really challenging time of receiving the gift of life,” he said. 

People often can become immune to sad stories in hospitals, believes McGregor.  

“Most Australians agree with organ transplant yet only one in three are on the registry. To change that behaviour, we had to try a different tack. Showing positivity and the achievements of these people and what they could do takes organ donation out of the theoretical -- which most people agree with --- and into the practical,” said McGregor. 

The Dentsu team started its collaborations with the participants in the World Transplant Games who are featured in the documentary through video calls and getting to know them as best they could.  

For Bagnall, it’s an intimate relationship between the director, crew and talent to make sure the featured individuals trusted them enough to tell their stories. 

“I shared my own personal hardships and worked on building a relationship where both people felt comfortable. They were on the same journey as we were; wanting to raise awareness to the public so they too could relate to organ transplants and the need for people to sign up to the register in a completely different way,” he said.  

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