- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 19, 2004

Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide is continuing to pump life into a campaign that targets women and their No. 1 killer: heart disease.

The District-based public relations firm is working overtime to secure celebrity commitments as part of a fashion show featuring red dresses, the campaign’s universal symbol.

The “Heart Truth” public awareness campaign, which officially began in 2002, is sponsored by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, which is part of the government’s National Institutes of Health.

Ogilvy won the original three-year, $2.3 million contract in September 2001. The contract has been extended through mid-April, and the total campaign budget has increased to $5.7 million.

The agency was charged with creating a campaign that would build awareness about heart disease among women ages 40 to 60. One in three American women dies of heart disease.

“You have to focus like a laser on the audience and the message,” said Terry Long, communications director at the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. “We have not lost sight of that.”

In an effort to make the cause more tangible, Ogilvy created a concept that would serve as a symbol for the campaign. After research that included focus groups, the red dress became the official reminder of women’s heart disease awareness.

“The red dress rose to the top as the [concept] that really was the most compelling,” said Beth Ruoff, creative director at Ogilvy. “It’s a universal symbol.”

Just as the pink ribbon has become the symbol for breast cancer awareness, the government is hoping the red dress will get just as much recognition.

A survey conducted by Ogilvy in the fall showed that 25 percent of women already identify the red dress as the symbol for women’s heart disease awareness. More than 500,000 red dress pins have been distributed.

The campaign has expanded and continues to build momentum through media coverage. It culminates at an event during New York’s Fashion Week.

“It is a logical way to showcase the red dress and bring it to life,” said Sarah Temple, senior vice president at Ogilvy.

The red dress made its debut in February 2003 when 19 designers, including Vera Wang, Donna Karanand Oscar de la Renta, donated red dresses to be displayed at an event during the high-profile Fashion Week.

“It’s glitz and glamour, but under it all there is a serious message,” Ms. Long said.

The program grew this year to include 26 designers who created red dresses exclusively for the Heart Truth campaign. The dresses were worn on the runway by models and celebrities in February.

“The fashion show serves as a highly visible platform, which allows us to reach millions through the media,” said Sally McDonough, vice president at Ogilvy.

Ogilvy is hoping to nail down an all-celebrity fashion show for an event at Fashion Week in February. Celebrities on board include Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York, tennis champion Venus Williams and Olympic skater Michelle Kwan.

“We recognize the powerful media value that celebrities have across the board,” Ms. Temple said.

Former first lady Barbara Bush has been the “ambassador” for the campaign since February 2003.

In addition to the exposure at Fashion Week, Ogilvy works year-round to secure media partners and get coverage of heart disease in women and the “Heart Truth” campaign on a national level in magazines, newspapers, online and on radio and television.

Donna De Marco can be reached at 202/636-4884. Advertising & Marketing runs every other Monday.

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