Zika Virus: who, what, when, where, how?Read More
Over the past weeks and months you will have undoubtedly seen headlines or heard news reports about Zika virus. The World Health Organization (WHO) has now declared the Zika virus an international public health emergency due to the threat it poses to pregnant women and babies. In this short blog I will aim to cover the basics of the virus: what it is, how it’s spread, who it affects, where it’s affecting and also why it’s suddenly become a global emergency despite being identified over 60 years ago.
Surprisingly to some, Zika is not a new virus and it was in fact first recorded in 1947 in rhesus monkeys in Uganda. It was later identified in humans in 1952, again in Uganda and the United Republic of Tanzania. Since then it has been reported in the Americas, Asia, other parts of Africa and the Pacific. See map below to understand how the virus has travelled.
Zika virus is transmitted by mosquitos, specifically Aedes aegypti, which carry the virus and bite humans causing them to become infected. This type of mosquito is particularly effective at carrying this virus and it’s also the primary vector of the yellow fever, dengue, and chikungunya viruses. This genus of mosquitos is also better adapted to live amongst humans compared to others as they are able to thrive in smaller bodies of water, even as small as a bottle cap, making them very difficult to avoid.
The best way to prevent the spread of the virus is by minimising exposure to mosquitos by removing their source or avoiding contact. This can be done using insect repellent, covering up small bodies of water, keeping doors and windows closed and sleeping with mosquito nets.
What’s interesting about Zika is that in many instances it remains undiagnosed as symptoms are very subtle and in 80% of cases there are no symptoms at all. If a patient does display symptoms, they usually manifest as minor fever, headache and a body rash. The most worrying thing about Zika, though, is the links that have been drawn in more recent years. Researchers noted that many people infected during the Brazil and French Polynesia outbreaks later developed Guillain-Barré syndrome, a rare and serious condition of the peripheral nervous system. Zika virus has also been linked with microcephaly, a rare neurological condition in which an infant’s head and brain are significantly smaller than they should be. Since the outbreak in Brazil in 2015 there has been a 20-fold increase in the number of cases of microcephaly. For this reason, pregnant women are being discouraged from travelling to regions affected by the virus, and those planning to get pregnant should delay it if possible. It’s worth noting, though, that if you’ve had the virus it is perfectly safe to have a child in the future as the virus leaves the blood system after a few weeks.
As the symptoms of Zika itself are relatively minor, there are no specific treatments for it other than rest and staying well hydrated.
The reason Zika virus has begun to spread so fast across South America at the moment is due to a lack of background immunity within the populations there. Added to this is the fact that Aedes aegypti mosquitoes are densely populated in this region and the environment is perfect for them to thrive. This combination has resulted in a rapid spread of the virus within the last year in South America.
With 16,000 athletes and 600,000 spectators due to arrive in Rio this August for the 2016 Olympic games, this outbreak has come at a very critical time for Brazil. Some countries and athletes are beginning to discuss whether they will be attending due to the risk of Zika virus. Some are calling for the Games to be cancelled or postponed, but the spokesman of the Rio Olympics said that cancellation “has never been mentioned”. Experts of infectious disease believe that Brazil is making a huge effort to tackle the virus and that factors such as it being held in one city and within colder months should be able to reduce the risk of Zika to an acceptable level. At the moment no countries or athletes have officially pulled out, although many will continue to assess the risk up until August.
Scientists have still not been able to prove a definitive link between Zika and microcephaly so this remains the biggest focus of their research. The WHO recommends all people to avoid travel to affected regions and delay pregnancies where possible. If you’d like to find out more information about this virus head to the WHO website: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/zika/en/.
Have you got any questions about Zika? Tweet them to me at @EmilyAtNotch!
Deadpool Viral Marketing CampaignRead More
For those who are not familiar with the character Deadpool (real name Wade Wilson), he is a mentally unstable, foul-mouthed, disfigured mercenary in the Marvel Universe. His main superpower is an extremely accelerated healing rate however, one of his most important features is that he breaks the fourth wall i.e. he is aware that he is a fictional character. You will now find Deadpool in cinemas starring in his own feature-length film (played by Ryan Reynolds), aptly titled “Deadpool”. This has enabled a viral marketing campaign unlike anything we have seen before, giving Deadpool massive coverage months before even being released. In this blog I have explored a few of the viral marketing pieces the marketing team behind Deadpool have used to promote the film.
As mentioned above, Deadpool is extremely foul-mouthed as well as violent. When the film was announced, fans of the comic book iteration were, though initially excited about the film, concerned that the studio wouldn’t stay true to the comics and make the film a more family friendly PG-13 (as opposed to an R). On April 1st 2015 (April Fool’s Day) an American channel was interviewing Ryan Reynolds about the PG-13 rating announced earlier that day for the film. During the interview Deadpool appears in the studio behind the interviewer and takes him out with some set equipment. He then goes on to address the audience that his film is actually going to be rated R. This not only addressed the age rating concerns of the film but also introduced new audiences to Deadpool and demonstrated the fourth-wall breaking features of the character. You can watch the interview here.
The marketing team have capitalised on just about every holiday going over the past few months. During Halloween they released a viral video of Deadpool recruiting some young trick-or-treaters (dressed up as different members of the X-Men team). You can watch the video here.
12 DAYS OF DEADPOOL
Yet again utilising the holidays, this was a spin on the classic 12 days of Christmas. The 12 days of Deadpool gave audiences a new piece of promotional material each day, ending with a brand new trailer on Christmas Day. The campaign included new posters, pages of the script (annotated by Deadpool) videos, GIFs, a Christmas newsletter and even a set of emojis.
DEADPOOL KISSES WAYNE ROONEY
In this video, Deadpool is playing football with the Manchester United team, scores a penalty and then celebrates with several high profile United players. He then rounds off his celebration by kissing Wayne Rooney on the forehead only to then wake up from a dream. This video was posted by the official Manchester United social media accounts accompanied by a picture (see below). This is a great piece of marketing, utilising one of the biggest fan-bases in the world (around 9.5% of the world’s population support United) to reach out to markets not yet aware of Deadpool. Manchester United are the most followed team in the world on social media with over 116 million followers across all accounts, this gives the sponsored Deadpool posts a huge reach. You can watch the video here.
VALENTINES DAY POSTERS
Though the film’s release was around Valentines Day, Deadpool probably isn’t the typical or even ideal date film (though I’m sure plenty of people out there who would argue that it could be). However this has not stopped the marketing team from doing their best to put a romantic spin on Deadpool with some parody posters that probably don’t quite capture the essence of the film that accurately (see below).
Using emojis has become incredible popular in recent years and a lot of brands and films now pay to have their own emojis on Twitter. However, although Deadpool didn’t use Twitter emojis in its marketing campaign, they did make good use of them in a few billboards (see below). This really captures the humour Deadpool often uses, and combines a new form of advertising (emojis) with a much older, longstanding form of advertising (billboards).
SUPER BOWL AD
Any self-respecting marketing team behind a major spring/summer feature film has to seriously consider a SuperBowl ad and with an audience of over 110 million every year, the Deadpool marketing team certainly didn’t pass up on this opportunity. The 30-second TV spot started with Deadpool addressing the audience, telling them why he always wanted to be a professional athlete (his reasoning isn’t the most conventional) and finishing with some footage of the film. You can watch this here.
This is probably my favourite piece of viral marketing from the Deadpool movie. Avideo made in association with the Testicular Cancer Awareness Foundation (TCAF) and BallBoys charities showcased Deadpool giving men a tutorial on how to check themselves for testicular cancer (in his own eloquently worded way of course). This is not only great PR for the film but raised awareness of an important issue that not enough men take seriously. The ad even came with the hash-tag ‘#touchyourselftonight’ to complete the campaign. You can watch the video here.
As you can see, a lot of effort and money was utilised to create a successful campaign surrounding the release of the movie. But, have all the marketing efforts been successful? You bet it has. Deadpool grossed over $260 million worldwide in its first week off a budget of just $58 million! This includes making over $150 million in the US box office alone over their extended President’s Day weekend, a record opening for an ‘R’ rated film. Considering the superhero genre is very much a saturated market at the moment, bringing a relatively unknown superhero to the big screen in his own film for the first time could be considered something of a risk. However, with such a great marketing campaign combined with rave reviews, Deadpool has no problem holding his own at the box office.
Let me know what your favourite piece of marketing from the Deadpool film has been by tweeting me @JordanAtNotch!
The Science of LoveRead More
It’s almost Valentines Day – a time for gifts, flowers and most importantly, a day to express your love for that special someone. Anyone who has ever experienced love would say there is no greater feeling than to love and to be loved and might also say it is an unexplainable, complex feeling. Arguably, the magic of love lies in its mystery, but why exactly do we feel the pull of desire, love and infatuation? And can the secrets of love be explained and unlocked by something as unromantic as science?
In fact, there is actually a lot of science behind it. Love is really just the result of a significant number of chemical reactions and excited neurons, combined with a multitude of hormones to guide us through the three so-called stages of love: lust, attraction and attachment.
In recent years, our ability to view the brain in action has offered significant insight into the mechanisms of love. Research has shown that dozens of brain regions (namely the reward and pleasure centres, but also emotion and motivational brain areas) become active when a person falls in love, triggering feelings of euphoria, bonding and excitement. Other MRI studies have shown that the frontal cortex, vital to judgement, shuts down and becomes de-activated when we fall in love, causing people to suspend all criticism or doubt towards their partner, as well as affecting our willingness to take more risks that would normally seem reckless. Scientists believe this is for higher biological purposes, ensuring the most unlikely pairs can get together and reproduce. Other areas, including those controlling fear and negative emotions, also shut down.
These studies prove that biologically, love is a powerful, neurological condition like hunger or thirst and we talk about love being blind in the sense that we have no control over it, but then this isn’t surprising since love is basically chemistry, and the chemistry happens as follows:
Science of Love
Every love story in history began with dopamine. Dopamine is a chemical, as well as a neurotransmitter, that enhances hormone levels, affects numerous organs, sweat glands and senses. It basically makes us focus our desire on that one special person. It affects many processes in the brain, contributing to our emotional responses, movement, ability to express pleasure and also pain, thus reinforcing feelings of enjoyment and motivation. Also, as a precursor of noradrenaline, there will be no adrenaline, sweaty palms or racing heart if insufficient levels of dopamine are reached.
In effect, high dopamine levels in the brain tell us that being around our partner is synonymous with pleasure and acts as a natural stimulant. It is the reason we get that feeling of ecstasy during the early stages of love. Ultimately, once your body has been loaded with this chemical, you enter the lust stage.
Described as a temporary, passionate desire; lust is a hormone-driven phase, namely involving increased levels of the sex hormones – testosterone and oestrogen. Motivating us to find a mate, this initial stage of love has health-promoting and stress-reducing properties, although it can lead the way to a more complex stage.
During this stage, blood flows to the pleasure centres of the brain, inducing the feel-good reward pathway and giving those falling in love a feeling of overwhelming fixation, focused desire on one person and increased alertness and arousal.
Increased dopamine and noradrenaline levels, coupled with a decrease in serotonin, drive these emotions so that we begin to feel love, obsession and excitement, as well as experiencing increased heart rates, declined senses, sweaty palms and dry mouths when we are around that person. Serotonin normally provides a sense of control, guarding us against feelings of anxiety, uncertainty and instability. When levels drop, as they do in love, our sense of control decreases and we become obsessively fixated on things that affect our certainty and stability. Low serotonin levels are common in people with obsessive-compulsive disorders, which may explain why we concentrate on little other than our partner during the early stages of a relationship. However, serotonin is also key in regulating our moods and appetite, explaining why we sometimes feel anxious and lose our ability to eat when we’re falling in love.
Due to the strength of the chemical cocktail in the attraction phase, our alertness is increased and we feel a desire associated with our partner, however, this stage can also become addictive. This may explain why some people can’t walk out of a relationship and helps us to understand some of the madness that comes with falling in love.
After the crazy attraction phase, serotonin and adrenaline levels go back to normal giving way to oxytocin and vasopressin. This stage helps couples take their relationship to advanced levels. Oxytocin is a powerful hormone (particularly important during childbirth, creating a strong bond between a mother and her child) released by men and women equally. It helps formulate the depth of love, improve interaction and forge attachment as well as a strong bond between two people. Vasopressin is also known to be an important hormone to help promote long-lasting relationships and has a vital role in partner preference and commitment.
It is clear that love isn’t random by any means. It’s a chemical concoction, enough to make us crazy…and it does. However, science tells us that we have much less conscious control over how we feel than we might think, and from an evolutionary perspective, love is, in effect, a survival tool – a mechanism evolved to promote long-term relationships, feelings of safety and security, as well as parental support of children.
Do you think love can truly be explained by science? Tweet me @JennyatNotch
World Cancer DayRead More
Today, 4th February 2016, is World Cancer Day. Taking place under the tagline ‘We can. I can,’ World Cancer Day is the chance for the entire world to unite in the fight against the global epidemic – cancer. This day aims to save millions of preventable deaths each year by raising awareness and education about cancer as well as pressing governments and individuals across the world to take action against the disease. The goal is to ensure fewer people develop cancer, more people are cured and there is better quality of life for people undergoing treatment.
Currently, 8.2 million people die from cancer worldwide every year, out of which 4 million people die prematurely (aged 30 to 69 years). However, death rates for the disease are declining in the UK thanks to some of the amazing research that is being carried out in the fight against cancer. For example, cancer death rates in the UK have fallen by 10% in the past 10 years, according to a report released today by Cancer Research UK. Unfortunately though, this is not the case worldwide, with cancer incidence and mortality predicted to continue rising as people in developing countries start living longer and the world population continues to grow.
Efforts are currently focused on, but not limited to, early diagnosis and how to manage hard-to-treat cancers. Cancer Research UK’s chief executive said: “Today, one in two of all people diagnosed with cancer survive their disease for at least 10 years. Cancer Research UK’s ambition is to accelerate progress so that three in four survive cancer by 2034”. The current World Cancer Declaration, put together in 2013 by world cancer leaders at a summit in Cape Town, has an overarching goal:
“There will be major reductions in premature deaths from cancer, and improvements in quality of life and cancer survival rates.”
To achieve this, the Summit’s World Cancer Leaders have put together 10 targets that you can read here.
There are lots of different ways that you can get involved in World Cancer Day. You can see a range of ways you could get involved here; it could be as simple as sharing a message on social media or donating money. For instance, you may have noticed people wearing Unity Bands today and sharing their photos on social media. For this year’s campaign, Cancer Research UK is selling Unity Bands and encouraging people to write the names of their loved one who are or have suffered from cancer on their hands. The hashtag #ADayToUnite is being used widely across Twitter today to help everyone get involved. The focus of World Cancer Day this year is to get as many people as possible to join together to help raise funds to continue vital research in the UK. You can purchase a Unity Band and support the work of Cancer Research UK here. Charities like Cancer Research UK rely on donations to keep this vital research going; your donations make a huge difference.
Join the conversation on Twitter using the hashtags #ADayToUnite, #WeCanICan and #WorldCancerDay.