Copywriting with Emotion: The Story of a Disease

As a copywriter, I’m always finding new ways to convey information, ways to combine facts and creativity. For example, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is a major public health concern for senior citizens. But simply listing symptoms won’t help.

This campaign frames the issue through the eyes of the younger generation. The key phrase of the campaign, “Listen to your mother,” evokes childhood. But in this context, it allows adult children to switch roles from child to caregiver.

It does not limit itself to mothers. The content can be updated include other relatives, changing statistics accordingly. This subtly tells the audience to think of all their older loved ones and includes all families. Plus, by addressing adult parents, I present information seniors will care about in a less threatening, but direct way. They’ll still pay attention, even though I’m speaking to their kids.

Talking to seniors about their health isn’t easy. This campaign makes it easier, inviting curiosity and gentle probing to take the lead, before judgment and worry can derail the conversation. That’s what listening is all about. And listening is what will make these conversations effective, because each person has unique emotional, practical, or financial barriers to healthcare.

Short Content

Listen to your mother.

It’s possible she’s trying to tell you something without even realizing it. Her body may be revealing the early presence of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), a debilitating and potentially deadly disease of the lungs. It stems from smoking, chronic bronchitis, or other pollutants. There’s no cure for COPD, but it is treatable and early intervention is best. Early intervention is also hard, because many people mistake COPD’s early and seemingly minor symptoms with typical aging. By the time COPD rears its ugly, recognizable head, the impact is far worse than it might have been.

When you visit or call home, pay special attention to the possible early signs of COPD:

  • Coughing and wheezing
  • Regular respiratory infections
  • Shortness of breath, even for routine tasks
  • Extra mucus or phlegm
  • Blue lips or fingernails

If you hear your mother mention any of these symptoms, (or observe them), encourage her to talk to her doctor and show her how much you care.

Long Content

Listen to your mother.

When you call home, listen carefully. COPD may be introducing itself.

If you love an older person (especially someone who’s smoked), you might love someone at risk of Chronic Pulmonary Obstructive Disease (COPD). COPD is a debilitating disease that blocks airflow and makes it hard to breathe. It can stem from smoking, chronic bronchitis, or exposure to other pollutants. It starts out slowly, with subtle symptoms such as minor coughing and wheezing. Without treatment, it progresses and the damage increases in severity.

Experts believe there are 24 million people in the U.S. with COPD and half of them don’t realize it. This is a dangerous situation, because in this early stage, COPD offers a window of time to intercept its most devastating effects. Unfortunately, by the time symptoms are obvious, this moment to minimize COPD’s impact has passed.

Understand the way COPD devastates lungs (and lives).

When you breathe, air carries oxygen down your airways into your lungs. As air fills the lungs, they expand to make room for the extra molecules. The air travels through the bronchial tubes, to delicate sacs, alveoli. The alveoli border tiny blood cells, or capillaries, where red blood cells take in the oxygen and trade it for carbon dioxide, which you exhale. As this happens, the alveoli expand and contract as the gases move in and out.

COPD causes inflammation in the airways and alveoli. Sometimes, the walls of the alveoli become inflamed or destroyed completely. This makes it difficult for the body to trade oxygen for carbon dioxide. The decreased lung function shows up on a spirometry test, in a tube that measures speed and pressure of air flow.

Once COPD takes away lung function, there is no way to get it back. It’s permanent. The only action available to people with COPD is to attempt to minimize future damage. If COPD has robbed someone of the ability to take a deep breath or enjoy her favorite hobbies, this is the new normal: sitting on the sidelines or enduring expensive and upsetting flare-ups.

Look for COPD so you can stop its progress.

By paying attention to how your relative is doing in general, you can notice early warning signs within the context of casual conversation. You can find out if your parents have been missing activities, like physically demanding chores or the long walks they used to enjoy.

When you visit or call home, pay special attention to the possible early signs of COPD:

  • Coughing and wheezing
  • Regular respiratory infections
  • Shortness of breath, even for routine tasks
  • Extra mucus or phlegm
  • Blue lips or fingernails

Broach the sensitive topic with your older relatives.

Most of us fear awkward Thanksgiving dinners and therefore tread carefully when giving our parents advice. But with COPD, the risk is too great. Weave your interest in their health into your current relationship. Most people don’t realize they might have COPD, so you can bring it up when you hear anything that concerns you. Ask them to put your mind at ease, with a spirometry test.

YouTube Spot

Mark: My grandpa calls me every Thursday night, no matter what.

[sound of indistinct chatter and image of Mark on the phone]

Mark: For the longest time, these calls filled me with warmth and made it feel like Florida wasn’t all that far from Chicago after all.

[shot of winter Chicago apartment and Mark smiling with split screen of his grandpa on the phone on his porch].

Mark: His laugh has stayed the same for 30 years.

[sound of grandpa laughing].

Mark: Lately, I don’t get to hear him laugh. His coughing fits have taken over our calls. He doesn’t want to talk about it—says he’s fine, but I’m still worried.

[sound of Mark’s grandpa coughing]

Mark: Florida seems a lot further away these days.

Narrator: Many seniors have trouble breathing, which can be debilitating and upsetting. But diagnosing the root cause be difficult. What may seem like simple aging could be Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease or COPD. COPD is a disease that gets worse over time. But there’s good news. Early detection can limit the negative effects of this disease, allowing people to continue to enjoy a high quality of life. If you’re speaking with a senior who has smoked, look for early symptoms of COPD, like wheezing, coughing and shortness of breath. Encourage a spirometry test as soon as possible.


Listen to your stepdad. He might be trying to tell you about his #COPD without even knowing it. [link]

When you talk your grandpa, do you hear extra coughing? Encourage him to ask his doctor about #COPD. [link]

#COPD is almost a silent killer. But you can spot it early if you know what to listen for. Listen to your mother. [link]

Do you love a senior who has smoked? Almost 50 percent of this population will develop #COPD. Be prepared: [link]

If you have older parents, now is the time to talk to them. #COPD gives warnings: [link]

Talking to your great aunt about her health may be scary, but #COPD is terrifying. Listen for the risks. [link]

#COPD discriminates. Women have more narrow airways, so it impacts them faster. It kills more women than men, too. [link]

If #COPD progresses enough undetected, a sigh of relief becomes impossible. Know the signs. [link]

Listen to your mother. Her body could be telling you she has #COPD. [link]

Facebook Post # 1
Did you know that Chronic Pulmonary Obstructive Disease (or COPD) is the third leading cause of death in the U.S.? In part, it is because the disease is so sneaky. COPD creeps into the life of unsuspecting people, usually past age 40. It’s camouflaged with other unpleasant realties of aging, so many people don’t realize the serious nature of the problem. Most often, people at risk of COPD are smokers or former smokers or have suffered from chronic bronchitis.

Early detection of COPD is the best chance people have at keeping their quality of life. That means paying attention to symptoms like:

  • Chronic coughing and wheezing
  • Regular respiratory infections
  • Shortness of breath, even for routine tasks
  • Excess mucus or phlegm
  • Blue lips or fingernails

Facebook Post # 2
When you call home, you make your parents feel special. They love to hear from you and talk about their life. This is a great situation to assess your parents’ risk for Chronic Pulmonary Obstructive Disease (or COPD). COPD is a disease of the lungs that has no cure and gets worse over time. It’s most common in smokers and former smokers, but affects others as well. But most people don’t realize that excessive phlegm, wheezing, or shortness of breath isn’t always a part of getting older.

Listen to your parents and decide if you think they could be showing early signs of COPD. Encourage them to put your mind at ease, by asking their doctor for a lung capacity test, known as a spirometry test.


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