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Hiro Fujita writes and stars in ad to ‘deepen the understanding’ of ALS year after Ice Bucket Challenge

Hiro Fujita in adMcCann Japan planning director Hiro Fujita has become the first person to write and star in a commercial to combat amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, a disease he suffers from that was made famous by last year’s viral movement the Ice Bucket Challenge.

In the ad for the End ALS Association that goes live today – which is World ALS Day – Fujita, who has worked as a planner for McCann since 2004, calls for the introduction of live clinical trials made available to all ALS patients. Despite the attention the Ice Bucket Challenge generated, “we cannot say it has deepened understanding of the disease,” Fujita says in a press release about the ‘One try, one life’ campaign.

The production costs of the ad, which features Fujita’s musician friend Al, was crowdfunded through the site JapanGiving; 3,912,300 Yen (US$32,000) was raised towards the project, which centres around the One Try, One Life website.

According to a study by NHK, the Ice Bucket Challenge, a viral movement that involved the dumping of ice-cold water on a friend and passing the challenge on, was known by 60 per cent of the respondents, but only around 20 per cent indicated a high understanding of the disease itself.

In an opinion piece on Mumbrella last year, Fujita said he hope the ad industry would use the Ice Bucket Challenge as a creative springboard to launch the “next great social movement to stop ALS”.

Dave McCaughan, Fujita’s former colleague at McCann, who has given talks to Fujita to raise awareness of the disease, wrote in a piece on LinkedIn that while the Ice Bucket Challenge did a good job of raising awareness, creatives descending on Cannes this week for the world’s biggest advertising festival would only be talking about the response to the campaign – not what to do next.

“Of course the [Ice Bucket] Challenge did a great job in getting awareness of the name,” McCaughan wrote. “As I write this post there are thousands of my colleagues in the advertising/marketing world about to start their annual pilgrimage to the Cannes festival where I am sure there will still be discussion of just how the Challenge managed to get such a response. But there won’t be a lot of discussion of what happened next… but that is what is important.”

“For people like Hiro what is important is getting live trials. Hiro has said for the last few years he is happy to be the guinea pig. As he said when I visited him a week ago in Tokyo “better to try and die than keep suffering”. The thing about Hiro is that over the last five years as his body has deteriorated his spirit and bravery have just been amazing. He will try anything to live and to raise awareness.”

McCaughan teamed up with Fujita to give a talk on living with ALS at TedXTokyo in June last year.

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