Saturday, June 27, 2015

The National Kidney Foundation's New Ad Campaign? It's a Pisser

You've heard the statistics before – maybe even read them here – but they still seem staggering nonetheless:
• According to the National Kidney Foundation (NKF), one out of every three adults in the U.S. today is in danger of developing kidney disease.
• One out of nine Americans – more than 26 million people – already has kidney disease...and most don't even know it.

• African Americans are three times more likely to develop kidney disease than the rest of the population (just my luck), Hispanic Americans 1.5 times more likely.

• Every single day, 12 people die waiting for a kidney transplant.

But here's a stat I've never heard before: the NKF says its research shows that half of all Americans don't know that healthy kidneys are responsible for creating urine.

What? How is that possible? Where did these people think urine comes from, the Pee Fairy?

OK, so maybe everybody isn't a whiz at anatomy. (See what I did there?) The NKF, always eager to educate, has taken a bold – and downright silly – approach to raising public awareness by launching a new promotional campaign this month called, "Everybody Pees."

Well, hopefully everybody, at any rate.

"Urine also happens to hold the key to catching kidney disease," says Kevin Longino, the acting CEO of the NKF. "The message may be unconventional, but it is educational and actionable: get your urine checked for kidney health."

Unconventional? For an established, conservative heath care organization like the National Kidney Foundation, that's your understatement of the month. The takeaway is supposed to be that every time you go to the bathroom to do No. 1 and something comes out, remember to thank your kidneys and make a mental note to keep them healthy. The best kind of peeing you can do, the NKF suggests, is into a cup at your doctor's office – a regularly scheduled urine test to check for kidney damage.

The way they're going about it, however, is as goofy and off the wall as it is eye-catching and oddly charming.

"We are flipping public health education messaging on its head, using humor to get out message across and foregoing scare tactic messaging," Longino declares of his campaign, developed in collaboration with Publicis LifeBrands Medicus. "We're going out on a limb with our core message on urine testing, but we need to take risks if we're going to alter the course of kidney disease in this country."

This is the root of their risk, the Foundation's two-minute animated campaign video. Careful: you may catch yourself singing the theme song in public:

"Pee is a lifesaver (yes, really)!" the video's tagline reads. "You might think urine is gross, funny or just a fact of life, but it's also the best way to find out if your kidneys are working."

Let me tell you from personal experience, you get a lot more casual and less grossed out about urine when you have kidney problems. Mostly, you're just glad to see your pee. 

For more information about the campaign, you can go to

While I was working on this post, our twin 15-year-old girls wandered past and fell in love with the "Kidneys Are the Coolest" sticker above. They immediately wanted posters, jewelry and T-shirts. (You have them, right, NKF?)

The Foundation may just have a winner here. As far as the twins are concerned, folks, urine.