Here’s the One Word You Should Never Say to Parents Who Have Kids With Down Syndrome

FCB's follow-up to last year's award-winning campaign

Warning: There’s a bad word in FCB Canada’s new campaign for the nonprofit Canadian Down Syndrome Society.

It’s not shit or fuck, though you’ll hear young people with Down syndrome say both of those words, repeatedly and with great gusto, in the 90-second video below. Even so, despite the riotous and good-natured profanity, the only truly bad word in the spot is sorry.

That’s because it’s something you should never say to parents who’ve just welcomed a baby with Down syndrome into the world.

Launching today with the tagline “Anything But Sorry,” the work follows last year’s Cannes Lion-winning “Down Syndrome Answers,” which featured folks with the developmental disorder fielding commonly asked questions about it.

Those spots leveraged Google AdWords and were designed to pop up in search queries. The same mechanism helps drive this year’s initiative. Now, when folks Google questions like “What do you say to parents who just had a baby with Down syndrome?” the top result will point them to elements of “Anything But Sorry.” Paid social and PR outreach will also help the push gain traction.

“In talking to parents of children with Down syndrome, a recurring and devastating theme kept emerging,” Nancy Crimi-Lamanna, co-chief creative officer at FCB Canada, tells AdFreak. “[We heard] stories of how traumatizing the reaction towards the birth of their child was. Whether they had chosen to have the baby or it was a surprise, the reactions from family, friends and even healthcare providers was the sameā€”a heartfelt ‘sorry.’ For many, this feeling of mourning, loss and sadness is their most prominent birth memory.”

Crimi-Lamanna and her team were rocked by this revelation.

“As a parent, I was deeply saddened,” she says. “Can you imagine mourning the birth of your child? Our strategy was to change the behavior around this very specific moment in time by showing people that when it comes to welcoming a new baby with Down syndrome, the only bad word they can say is sorry.”

A second video provides additional insight and context, with parents who share their stories:

“This year, approximately 9,363 babies in North America will be born with the developmental disorder,” says Jeff Hilts, FCB Toronto’s other co-CCO. “This campaign gives everyone a chance to give them a proper welcome.”

Users can visit and choose a cheeky e-card to share on their social networks. “Anything But Sorry” printed congratulations cards are also available, with proceeds benefiting the CDSS.

Some of the cast from last year’s campaign have returned, as does the warm, welcoming vibe designed to expose viewers to a segment of the population they might not know that much about. Throughout, the subjects’ humor and sense of fun shine through.

After all, saying “Holy shit! You just had a baby!” or even “Congratu-fucking-lations!” makes more sense than telling the parents of a Down syndrome child how sorry you are that their baby arrived.

“The positive byproduct of ‘The ‘S’ Word’ video is that we get to see Down syndrome people as the diverse, rich humans that they are,” Crimi-Lamanna says. “They swear, they get angry, they laugh just like us. They’re not sorry, and we shouldn’t be, either.”

Campaign Title: Anything But Sorry
Client: Canadian Down Syndrome Society

Canadian Down Syndrome Society Credits
Chair, Board of Directors: Laura LaChance
Vice-Chair, Board of Directors: Ed Casagrande
Member, Board of Directors: Ben Tarr
Member, Board of Directors: Stewart Moffatt
National Executive Director: Kirk Crowther
Communications Manager: Kaitlyn Pecson
Resource Coordinator: Carlee Reardon

Creative Agency: FCB Canada
Chief Creative Officer: Nancy Crimi-Lamanna, Jeff Hilts
Sr. Copywriter: Marty Hoefkes
Sr. Art Director: Michael Morelli
Art Director: Cody Sabatine, Gira Moin
Copywriter: Joseph Vernuccio
Illustrators: Sasha Ortega, Elma Karabegovic, Sarah Cleaver, Amanda Disanto, Sally Fung

Account Management
Chief Executive Officer: Tyler Turnbull
VP, Managing Director: Tracy Little, Ricky Jacobs
Group Account Director: Ravi Singh
Account Executive: Olivia Selbie
Director of Integrated Production: Stef Fabich
Broadcast Producer: Christine Michalejko
Chief Strategy Officer: Shelley Brown
Sr Strategic Planner: Eryn LeMesurier
Strategist: Shelagh Hartford
UX Lead: Kristy Pleckaitis

Project Management
Project Manager: Ashley Whitaker

Technology & Development
Director of Technology: Madara Ranawake
Front End Developer: Florian Adu-Gyamfi
QA Manager: Lina Vaisman
Jr. QA Analyst: Peter Panchine
Jr. QA Analyst: Labdhi Deliwala

Print Production
Print Producer: Bruce Ellis
Studio Manager: Shairoz Manek
Senior Production Mac Artist: Billy Mavrakakis
Production Mac Artist: Rittie Prak
Proofreader: Albert Macchiusi

Production Credits
Director: Elias Campbell
Director & DOP: Scott Drucker
DOP: Stephen Mcloughlin

Casting: Jigsaw Casting
CDC: Shasta Lutz

Editing House: Rooster Post Production
Executive Producer: Melissa Kahn
Editor: Chris Parkins
Assistant Editor: Joey Whitelaw

Editing House: Radar
Editor: Scott Drucker
Editor: Joƫle Walinga

Transfer Facility: The Vanity
Colourist: Andrew Exworth

Online Facility: Fort York
Flame Artist: Ernie Mordak
Assistant Flame Artist: Melissa Vasiliev
Producer: Armen Bunag

Music House: Grayson Matthews
Music Producer: Mark Domitric
Music Supervisor: Igor Correia
Sound Engineer: Brian Bernard
Sound Designer: Ben Swarbrick & Laura Titchner
Head of Sales: Kelly Mcclusky
Producer: Sharon Yokoyama
Project Coordinator: Nicholas Shaw

Printer: C.J. Graphics Inc., Parry Nitchos
PR: Shannon Stephaniuk, Glossy

@DaveGian David Gianatasio is a longtime contributor to Adweek, where he has been a writer and editor for two decades. Previously serving as Adweek's New England bureau chief and web editor, he remains based in Boston.