"MS: It's not a software company."
That's the message currently gracing billboards, buses, and bus shelters in and around Silicon Valley in an eye-grabbing new awareness campaign by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.
Donated to the NMSS by a Bay Area branch of international advertising firm McCann-Erickson, the ad is one of three that try to wrest the public's association with the letters "MS" away from popular brand names and back to the disease of multiple sclerosis.
Another ad in the triptych reads, "MS: It's not a magazine for feminists," referring to Ms. Magazine.
A third reads, "MS: Many Scars," referring to a paraphrase of the term "multiple sclerosis."
Multiple sclerosis is a chronic neurological disease that attacks the tissue surrounding nerves. Symptoms may vary from numbness and tingling in the limbs to blindness and paralysis. The disease typically affects people between the ages of 20 and 40, and 300,000 Americans currently suffer from it, according to the NMSS.
NMSS spokesperson Terence Keane acknowledged that the "software company" ads refer to Microsoft.
"The issue with all the ads is what people associate with these letters," Keane said. "We're not necessarily trying to make people stop thinking of MS as Microsoft, but to add the idea of MS as multiple sclerosis to the cultural vocabulary."
"I don't think it's possible to make people stop thinking of MS as Microsoft," he added.
The software company declined to comment on the ad campaign.
The ads launched March 4 and will complete a four- to six-week run in San Francisco, as well as in Northern California's Contra Costa, Alameda, San Mateo, Santa Clara, and Marin counties.