For nearly 20 years the medical humanitarian organisation, Doctors Without Borders (MSF) has been in the lives of South Africans, bringing medical care to people who have been excluded or marginalised. To tell this story, MSF has embarked on a campaign to remind South Africans of their work focused on HIV and TB, and medical emergencies such as sexual and gender-based violence.

Big changes often start small. And this insight drove the award-winning creative agency, GRID Worldwide, to team up with MSF to share the idea of supporting their life-saving work with South Africans through a fresh and innovative advertising campaign, that focuses on the power of action that lies in words.

Sometimes, problems in life often already have the solution contained within them. All that is required is creativity and making an innovative but decisive small change for action.

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Drawing on this simple insight, the creative team at GRID opted to change a single letter in words to help explain how MSF changes lives. The new advertising campaign titled, #ActionsSpeak, gets to the heart of MSF’s work, in an incisive manner to inspire immediate donations.

 “MSF relies on the donations of individual people around the world to save lives and bring medical care in the world’s worst crises and conflicts, when treating people in epidemics, or those who face healthcare exclusion. These small but generous actions have a big impact. They pay for medicines, equipment, medical and humanitarian professionals to treat 11 million patients worldwide and nearly 23,000 in South Africa alone,” explains Carli Snyman, donor acquisition manager of MSF Southern Africa.

“Being funded in this way also ensures that our work remains independent and impartial – from working in war zones to fighting for access to affordable medicines.”

The series of above-the-line adverts (TV, Print, Online & YouTube) all employ clever word plays to get the message across that healthcare challenges can turned around by adding a letter to bring a solution – as one would to solve a crossword, or in a game of Scrabble. This demonstrates the ingenuity and insight MSF teams have to tap into when they bring medical care to people around the world and South Africa. Word game enthusiasts will appreciate the wit involved in just how innovative the campaign concept turns meanings around – but anyone can immediately connect with the impact a donation to MSF can make to save lives.

Clinton Bridgeford, Grid Worldwide Executive Creative Director, explains: “Grid Worldwide believes in creating campaigns with purpose, and that are expected to deliver positive results for our clients. In this case, it’s to increase awareness of the humanitarian organisation’s commitment to South Africa.  Grid Worldwide is known as the Make it Mean Something company, a philosophy which is permeating all areas of our business, in the process ensuring we hit the right notes in order to connect with the hearts and minds of the market.

“’Make it mean something’ is a combination of giving something significance, consequence, substance, implication, gravity and magnitude,” concludes Bridgeford

The medical needs covered in the adverts range from South Africa where MSF is providing treatment for people living with HIV and TB, to supporting survivors of sexual and gender-based violence, offering medical care and relief to asylum seekers and migrants, to treating the wounded in conflict zones like Central African Republic. One of the innovative adverts was shot on location near Eshowe in KwaZulu Natal where MSF runs an internationally recognised HIV and TB project in the community. 

About Doctors Without Borders (MSF)

Doctors Without Borders (MSF), is an international, independent medical humanitarian organisation. We help people worldwide where the need is greatest, delivering emergency medical aid to people affected by conflict, epidemics, disasters, or exclusion from healthcare. 

In South Africa, MSF continues to develop new testing and treatment strategies for HIV and tuberculosis (TB), support victims of sexual violence and push for better access to lifesaving drugs.

Globally, our teams are made up of tens of thousands of health professionals, logistics and administrative staff – bound together by our charter.  Our actions are guided by medical ethics and the principles of impartiality, independence and neutrality. We are a non-profit, self-governed, member-based organisation.

To ensure our independence, we are mainly funded by individuals, but also by private companies and foundations. In South Africa, over the past 10 years, 100,000 South Africans have proven their solidarity through a financial contribution.

If you would like to support Doctors Without Borders Southern Africa please SMS “PILL” to 43845 for a R30 monthly donation or visit our website at