Without you, there is no cure

Blood cancer has a brand issue: put simply, it is far less well understood than other types of cancer. DRUM worked with the charity Anthony Nolan to raise awareness & understanding of their vital work.

Elliott Starr & Laura Clark, DRUM

Creative Team


Blood cancer has a brand issue: put simply, it is far less well understood than other types of cancer. As a result, it is a less well supported cause than other ‘competitor’ diseases.

Cancers of the blood don’t manifest as tumours or a clear physical symptom; instead they infiltrate the entire body, starting in the bone marrow and spreading throughout the whole circulatory system. They are silent, invisible and insidious killers.

Despite this, a 2011 survey of Britons revealed that our most feared forms of cancer were those in parts of the body that we can easily grasp or imagine - the brain, bowel and breast. One of the most common types of blood cancer, leukaemia, was cited by only 2% of the population as a concern. A major contributing factor to this is that we would almost certainly never hear ‘blood cancer’ referred to as a single term in ordinary conversation – patients are not diagnosed as having blood cancer, but instead as having one of the specific diseases that it describes.

Consequently, the blood cancer charity sector is awash with multiple niche causes which represent the individual types of the disease, along with myriad personal appeals and regional calls for help.

A confusing condition and a lack of widespread awareness coupled with constant low-level messaging competing for attention means that many people miss the simple truth at the heart of the matter: the cure for blood cancer lives inside all of us.

By harvesting stem cells from a suitably matched donor and transplanting them into the patient, the cancer can sometimes be cured completely.

When we ask people to consider what the much vaunted ‘cure for cancer’ looks like, they describe scientists in laboratories, diligently poring over petri dishes and test tubes. They talk about it being a distant and seemingly unachievable goal, agonisingly out of reach regardless of what they read in the newspapers.

They don’t picture themselves saving the life of a total stranger with blood cancer.

Without You

One of the biggest challenges the charity Anthony Nolan faces is awareness and understanding of their vital work.

First, the brand needed a platform idea that would help people understand what the charity does, and the part that they individually can play.

Founded 50 years ago on the back of one mother’s struggle to find a matching donor for her son, Anthony Nolan works with incredible everyday individuals to save the lives of people with blood cancer. But none of this would be possible without the help of their supporters and donors. Born from this insight, we created ‘Without you, there is no cure’.

We were then tasked with increasing consideration of financial support. However, before people would care enough to support the charity, they first had to understand what Anthony Nolan do.

We partnered with acclaimed Director Jamie Rafn of Smuggler Production Studios and Brand Ambassador and Oscar Award Winner Olivia Colman to create a powerful, emotional film called ‘Without You’.

Finding a stem cell match is a very intricate process that involves an extensive search of a global register of stem cell donors. Any financial support the charity receives literally funds this search and helps to save lives.

We wanted to find a simple way to communicate this, which led us to the kind of ‘match’ that everyone understands, romance. Today’s world offers a sea of services for people looking to ‘find a match’ and as a result, it’s something many of us have come to take for granted.

But for people with blood cancer, it isn’t that simple. We used the power of something everyone has experienced at some point in their lives to explain Anthony Nolan’s work, trigger emotion and drive people to consider supporting the charity. This, followed by Olivia Colman’s voiceover, gave us the emotional resonance we needed.

The campaign is still live. The results to date have been very encouraging: 8,537,493 video views, over 3,400 shares and 39,597 landing page views. Most importantly, people were three times more likely to donate to the charity after seeing the film.

DRUM, London
Case study image1.jpg
Case Study image 2.jpg
Guest Author

Elliott Starr & Laura Clark, DRUM

Creative Team,


As the creative team behind the film, Laura and Elliott’s philosophy is simple: to sell, serve. It’s easy for brands to say things; the sky and the budget is the limit. Laura and Elliott prefer brands who actually back up their words with action, endeavouring to offer as much value as possible in the products and services they sell, as well as the way that they sell them. Elliott and Laura have received industry recognition at every agency they’ve worked at and are, in their own words “on a mission” to use brand’s power to leave the world a better place than they found it.

Related Tags