Last year, the Belgian charity the Mimi Ullens Foundation told 20 cancer patients they would give them makeovers. All that was required of them was to keep their eyes closed to make the reveal more exciting.
The patients expected that when they opened their eyes, they would look beautiful — but they were in for a surprise.
The first 1:30 of this video may seem straight out of a clichéd charitable makeover video. Then it takes quite the unexpected turn:
Leo Burnett France collaborated with the nonprofit Mimi Ullens Foundation on the project. The foundation has seven centres across Belgium and France that provide 15,000 cancer patients annually with beauty care, massages, and psychological support. It was founded in 2007 by Belgian art collector Myriam Ullens and her industrialist husband Guy Ullens.
The ad agency and foundation were inspired to create “If Only for a Second” by a patient’s statement that before she had cancer she was much more carefree.
The hope was that once the 20 participants discovered how silly they looked, it would allow them to “forget their disease, if only for a second,” according to the campaign’s press release.
The makeovers took place in Brussels in June 2013, and the participants reunited that November for the launch party of a book collecting photographer Vincent Dixon’s images of surprise and delight.
“Within a second, smiling faces were seen all over the room. At that very moment, cancer did not exist for the family members either,” the campaign states.
The ad went viral on YouTube and ended up winning big this year at advertising’s biggest event, the Cannes Lions festival, taking home one Gold Lion and eight Silver Lions this past September.
The foundation declined to reveal how much money “If Only for a Second” raised.
You can order the book and learn more about the campaign at the “If Only for a Second” website.
Here are a few pages from the book, courtesy of the Mimi Ullens Foundation:
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