According to the Chinese Zodiac, 2008 is the Year of the Rat, which begins on February 7th and ends on January 25th, 2009. First in the cycle of 12 animal signs, the Year of the Rat begins the sequence and recurs every twelfth year. Some famous RATS include Gwyneth Paltrow, Jude Law, Samuel L. Jackson, and even William Shakespeare!
I'm excited about this "Rat-atouille" year (thanks to the Golden Globes), because I'm a RAT too - born in 1972! Traditionally, Lunar New Year is a time of thanksgiving, a time to celebrate with family and friends and remember beloved ancestors. Southwest Airlines is gearing up for various Lunar New Year celebrations this year and is proud to be sponsoring the Southwest Airlines Chinese New Year Parade in San Francisco, the Lunar New Year Parade in Los Angeles and the Vietnamese Spring Festival and Parade in San Jose. And one of the many great things about my work in Corporate Community Affairs is that I get to work with extraordinary community Leaders who are driven to make a difference for the greater good, particularly within the Asian-American community.
Last week, one community Leader and longtime colleague and friend, Bill Imada, forwarded me an e-mail with an impromptu video that he shot after landing at Oakland Airport with Jane Cohen, Regional Marketing and Communications Director of the American Cancer Society. Bill is the Chairman and CEO of IW Group, a public relations and communications firm that specializes in reaching the Asian-American community, with offices in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York. He shared that an earlier Southwest flight with Jane was where they forged a campaign that would impact hundreds, if not thousands, of people almost four years later. As I read his very powerful message about how Southwest helped save lives and watched the humbling
video, I was so moved by Bill and Jane's efforts that I felt compelled to share on the Blog.
Bill's edited email and video:
I was riding back from Sacramento and ran into Jane Cohen, the regional director of marketing communications at the American Cancer Society. I actually didn't see her at first. She ended up sitting next to me and had my ear for more than an hour. During that hour-long Southwest Airlines journey, she told me a story about colon cancer that horrified and saddened me. (It is also known as colorectal cancer.) She said that Asian Americans in California and elsewhere around the country were not being screened for the pre-cancerous polyps that could lead to colon cancer. She said Chinese, Koreans, and Vietnamese were dying needlessly - from a cancer that is more than 90 percent curable if detected early - because they were fearful of knowing the unknown, didn't think they could afford the testing/screening; and/or didn't understand that this disease was one of the leading killers of all Americans. I told her that I would help.
When I got back to the office my creative team immediately agreed to help--all pro bono. However, due to the enormity of the challenge (Asian-American consumers over the age of 50 years were the target), we asked for help. Who did we approach? Dae Advertising. InterTREND Communications. AAAZa Advertising. Three of our fiercest competitors in California! But also some of our favorite people. People that would quickly understand the challenge and put aside all competitive issues to support the community.
It is so easy to say no these days to a competitor with his hand out asking for freebies. And even easier to say no to a person who can't afford to pay for these campaigns. But all three agencies said yes--which I believe is harder than saying no.
Together, after several years, we have developed campaigns for the Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese communities. The Vietnamese campaign includes a TV and radio spot with actress Kieu Chinh (of the Joy Luck Club fame). The Chinese campaign focused on real issues and real people-all touched by colon cancer, including a survivor. And the Korean campaign touched on the impact that colon cancer has on loved ones, including family and friends.
In the Vietnamese campaign, actress Kieu Chinh talked from personal experience and it was quite moving. People cried. And more people took the step to call, ask questions and inquire about being screened.
So, if Jane and I weren't on that Southwest Airlines flight that day, this campaign may never have happened. Nor, would this amazing partnership that includes your agency, Dae Advertising. (Side note: Dae Advertising is the genius behind Southwest's Asian American advertising creative.)
The campaigns have saved lives. And there is now greater awareness among the older-adult community that colon cancer is fully treatable if detected early. And the tests don't have to impact your wallet too severely.
Jane and I found ourselves on another Southwest Airlines flight yesterday morning and talked about how we met by chance. Hence, we credit Southwest for helping us "move about the country" to do our work and to save lives. Lives that could have been lost if we weren't on that flight that day.
BTW, I talked fondly of Southwest Airlines at the national American Cancer Society Convention and had a small Southwest Airlines plane jet across my PowerPoint presentation. It was warmly received.
We have a soft spot for Southwest. Not only do we feel at home on Southwest, it is also a place for us to connect, reconnect and make new friends.
Talk about the power of brand loyalty and invaluable relationships! In this case, one of our community partners has such an affinity for Southwest that he's willing to spread the word on his own merit without any provocation or a Southwest paycheck.
I followed up with Jane and learned that when the campaign first launched, it garnered over 200 calls to the ACS Northern California Chinese unit; support from the three top-ranking Chinese state legislators; and new partnerships with hospitals, physicians and corporations. Most importantly, the national awareness campaign not only spread throughout the country but also began to touch lives internationally. And it continues to do so today.
It was such a joy to hear Jane's side of the testimonial, "We do amazing work on your planes. Southwest's flights help us move around the country, so we (ACS) can move people to action...we love Southwest!"
THANK YOU American Cancer Society, IW Group, Dae Advertising, AAAZa Advertising, and InterTREND Communications, for your passion, generosity, creativity, and commitment to SAVING LIVES every year.
To learn more about the American Cancer Society and how you can help save the life of someone you LUV, I encourage you to visit http://www.cancer.org or call
Have a HAPPY and HEALTHY Year of the RAT!