This Challenging ‘No-Escape Room’ Simulates Life With an Incurable Disease

Wunderman Thompson Australia created an interactive challenge for Parkinson's NSW

- Credit by Wunderman Thompson Australia
Headshot of Emmy Liederman

At first glance, the tasks could not have seemed simpler: pour water into a teacup, untie a shoelace, memorize a short sequence of letters.

But as soon as a group of escape room experts started testing a new experience in Australia, they realized there was a major catch. Each challenge was designed to recreate the hidden, often invisible daily challenges that people with Parkinson’s cannot escape. 

“The truth is that it’s much more than just a tremor, but many of the symptoms people experience aren’t very well known,” said Simon Koay, senior art director at Wunderman Thompson. “The ‘No-Escape Room’ is really an evolution of the work we’ve done before, to help young people understand some of those ‘other’ symptoms.” 

The “No-Escape Room,” which was produced by Wunderman Thompson in collaboration with Parkinson’s NSW, was created to generate donations and raise awareness for overlooked symptoms and the younger victims that are often left out of the conversation. 


Tasks included a stiffened shoelace challenge, teacup tremor challenge and blurred vision challenge. “No-Escape Room” creators threaded shoelaces with tough metal and used software to scramble computer keys, mimicking the effects that Parkinson’s has on muscle movement and memory. The agency also created a digital version of the challenges. 

The face behind the “No-Escape Room” is a man named Gavin, who was diagnosed in his early 40’s. In the spot, he shares that “being diagnosed with Parkinson’s at such a young age feels like I’ve been short-changed by 20 years.” 

Only half of the participants were able to complete the challenges, and if they chose to exit on their own, they were met with a message from Gavin and a sign that read “Five Australians under 40 are diagnosed with Parkinson’s every day. Until there’s a cure, there is no escape.” 

Wunderman Thompson has produced a number of awareness campaigns with Parkinson’s NSW, including “The Hold,” which tells the story of a young woman diagnosed with the disease rather than her father, which is what the viewer initially expected. 

The “No-Escape Room” video and website were supported by limited spend on social channels, according to Wunderman Thompson creative group head Steve Hey.

“Parkinson’s NSW is a pro bono client, and the campaigns we’ve produced to date are all designed to tap into popular culture and deliver earned media, like our Parkinson’s Challenge campaign, which delivered over 9 million social views and more than 100 million news impressions on a budget of $0,” he said. 

Wunderman Thompson filmed the spot in early March before the pandemic, but the agency waited for the right moment to release it. 

“It’s not the easiest time for charities to get their messages out there right now, but those issues they’re working hard to help with are still very much there and in need of public support,” said Hey. “So we hope the video is seen by as many people as possible and the site is visited on an ongoing basis to keep helping people understand what Parkinson’s really is.”


Emmy is a senior journalism major at The College of New Jersey with minors in Spanish and broadcast journalism. She has previously worked as editor-in-chief of her college newspaper, The Signal, as well as an intern at Tribune Publishing Company. Emmy is looking forward to contributing to Adweek as an intern working with its breaking news and audience engagement teams.
Publish date: July 17, 2020 https://stage.adweek.com/creativity/this-challenging-no-escape-room-simulates-life-with-an-incurable-disease/ © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT
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