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Publicis launch conversation-changing #NotSpecialNeeds initiative

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Publicis and CoorDown, Italy’s national organisation for people with Down syndrome, are launching the conversation-changing initiative, #NotSpecialNeeds, with the goal of driving a cultural shift in the approach to Down syndrome awareness. The campaign officially debuted on March 16 and will also be presented to the official conference of World Down Syndrome Day (March 21) entitled, “MyVoiceMyCommunity.” The conference, which takes place March 21 in New York, at the headquarters of the United Nations, aims to enable people with Down syndrome to speak up, be heard and influence government policy and action, to be fully included in the community. The centrepiece of the provocative campaign features a digital film entitled, “Not Special Needs,” spotlighting the paradox in the term, ‘special needs.’ The film stars Lauren Potter, the popular actress with Down syndrome who played the role of Becky Jackson in Glee, and John McGinley, best known for his role as Dr. Cox on Scrubs, and whose 18-year old son Max has Down syndrome. This is the first time CoorDown has partnered with Publicis New York, and these campaigns were created under the leadership of Luca Pannese and Luca Lorenzini, who bring their passion for supporting CoorDown to their new roles as Executive Creative Directors at Publicis New York.

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CoorDown and The World Down Syndrome Day aspire to give a voice to people with Down syndrome, to promote their full social inclusion and to promote change in the cultural approach to the world of disability. The campaign amplifies that message by recognising that people with Down syndrome may need extra assistance, sometimes significant assistance and adjustments to meet a particular need, yet that doesn’t make their common human need ‘special’. For example, a person who requires help speaking, writing or being understood, still has the same human needs we all share; the need to communicate. The only difference is the degree of assistance, or the way to satisfy that need, not the need itself. This is the message at the core of the campaign: every individual shares the same human needs, which bind us collectively together in mutual respect, empathy and understanding.

The award-winning Wayne McClammy directed Not Special Needs (above), which features a supporting cast including Sam Suchmann and Mattie Zufelt; two friends with Down syndrome who created the movie Spring Break Zombie Massacre (below), and Jared Kozak, the recognised actor with Down syndrome known for Orson's Last Dance, Leader of the Pack and Teens Wanna Know. The campaign also introduces the new website at www.NotSpecialNeeds.com, and is supported with social amplification on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram as #NotSpecialNeeds.

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Andy Bird, Chief Creative Officer at Publicis New York, said: “The term ‘special needs’ is a euphemistic way to speak about persons with disabilities and their needs. The reality is people with Down syndrome do not have different or special needs, although they may sometimes meet those needs in different ways, they have the same needs as all of us; jobs, friends, love and simply the need to be seen and treated equally. We are so proud of this work for our incredible partner CoorDown who does so much great work courageously challenging preconceptions, and we hope our film maybe goes a little way to changing how people view those with Down syndrome.” Sergio Silvestre, President of CoorDown Onlus, added: “The World Down Syndrome day has great symbolic value for us, and we have been promoting it for some time. It is a day which allows us to reach out to everyone through our campaigns and address important issues. We are really proud to collaborate with Publicis North America in New York and, to once again count on the support of the many international organisations who participate in the project. The main objective of our work is to break down prejudices and stereotypes, and contribute to a profound change in attitude towards people with Down syndrome and more generally to the world of disability. We want to give our young people opportunities and tools that can ensure them a bright future.”

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