The Heart Truth®
Ogilvy Washington for the National Institutes of Health
How do you create a powerful wake-up call for women about their heart health?


Seeking to advance the Red Dress as the national symbol for women and heart disease awareness, The Heart Truth forged a groundbreaking and enduring collaboration between the U.S. federal government and the fashion industry.


In 2000, only 34% of women knew that heart disease was their #1 killer. To address the toll of heart disease in women, women needed a personal and urgent wake-up call about their risk.


Focus group research showed that it was critical to forge a strong emotional link between a woman's focus on her outer self and her inner health. A creative platform, "Heart Disease Doesn't Care What You Wear — It's the #1 Killer of Women®" addressed the prevailing myth that women aren't seriously affected by cardiovascular disease. The Red Dress icon became the symbol for women’s heart health — and the centerpiece of The Heart Truth®.


  • Introduced The Red Dress as the issue’s national symbol in a groundbreaking partnership with America’s fashion industry at New York’s Fashion Week.

  • Established 50+ corporate, not-for-profit, and media partnerships including: IMG Fashion, Johnson & Johnson, General Mills, Diet Coke, Time Inc., Glamour, Swarovski and American Express — reaching millions of women;

  • Leveraged earned media (including cover stories in TIME, Glamour, and Prevention) and social media (engaging influencers and consumers via emerging digital channels) to reach women with messages and tools encouraging them to take action on their own heart health.

  • Engaged First Lady Laura Bush as the campaign ambassador, who went on to host 20+ community events and two American Heart Month receptions at the White House.

  • Produced 350 campaign events in 7+ years — including an annual Red Dress Collection at Fashion Week, Road Show exhibits with screenings and community gatherings.

  • Built hundreds of grassroots partnerships with national, community and health provider groups targeting women’s health, faith-based and community of color organizations.


The campaign sparked a women's heart health movement and contributed to a doubling of women's awareness of their #1 health threat in a decade. Research showed two-thirds of women reported that the Red Dress made them want to learn more, and those who engaged with the campaign were substantially more likely to take risk-reducing actions.

The Heart Truth® received numerous awards, including Silver Anvil, Gold Sabre and PR Week — with a special issue of Social Marketing Quarterly documenting the campaign. In 2011, The Heart Truth® was named one of the top 10 campaigns of the decade by The Holmes Report — and in 2018 designated by PR Week as a top campaign of the past 20 years.