Case Study: Hands on a Hot Body Interactive CPR Tutorial

American Heart Association
Project Title

Hands On A Hot Body: The First Interactive Hands-Only CPR Tutorial 


Q4 2009–Q2 2012

Each year in the United States, EMS treat nearly 300,000 people who suffer cardiac arrest at home, at work or in public locations. In the absence of immediate, effective CPR, the chance of survival decreases 7 to 10 percent per minute.

An individual’s survival greatly depends on receiving CPR from someone nearby. However, less than one-third of cardiac arrest victims get this help. Most bystanders are worried they might do something wrong or make the situation worse—especially through the use of traditional CPR (where mouth-to-mouth is given to a person in cardiac arrest).

In 2009, the American Heart Association (AHA) came to Gotham to help generate more awareness of Hands-Only™ CPR, a simple, two-step technique that involves calling 9-1-1 and pushing hard and fast in the center of the victim’s chest until help arrives. We sought to create awareness with a campaign around the idea that “hands can do incredible things.” Each piece of media within the campaign demonstrated the power of hands, while at the same time educating and inspiring people to perform Hands-Only CPR. The campaign included TV spots done entirely in sign language; Hands Symphony, an interactive website where music was created with only the sounds of hands; and a typeface made out of images of hands that was used for outdoor and digital promotions. 

Once we had the public’s attention, our next step was to give them a more hands-on tutorial with the AHA site, Hands On A Hot Body. We assumed if people realized how easy this CPR method was, they would feel empowered to take action and more lives would be saved. 

Launched in July 2011, visitors to this educational—and somewhat provocative—site are able to have an interactive experience with Hands-Only™ CPR. Hands on a Hot Body encourages practice, and on the site we offered viewers bodies they would love to put their hands on. The user is walked through the steps of performing Hands Only CPR with the help of a narrator. Employing his or her mouse, the user is prompted to move each virtual hand to the correct position on the chest and to pump the chest at the correct speed, keeping the ball centered on a meter displayed at the bottom of the screen.


This project was completed pro bono.

Our agency investment over time was roughly 20 percent of agency resources from all departments: Creative, Strategy, Account and Production.

In addition, we brought on the pro-bono production efforts of Tool of North America, who devoted a production and development team to the project for roughly four months.


Research was conducted by the American Heart Association, with pre- and post-wave research conducted by the Ad Council.


In 2009, we launched Hands-Only CPR to the general public using television ads showing how hands can do incredible things, but nothing compares to using them to help save a life.

We began to see initial results in awareness, but now that word was out, and had been for a year, it was time to teach the general public how to use their hands to save a life.

We decided, what better way to teach people Hands-Only CPR than to create a tool that they would be excited to use, while simultaneously showing them the Hands-Only CPR technique. So, we ditched the old classroom CPR dummies from the past and created the first online interactive hands-only CPR tutorial, giving people the opportunity to learn Hands-Only CPR on a body they would love to have their hands on. 

We set out to make a fun and edgy experience that accurately represented the experience of Hands-Only CPR. The user is presented with a gallery of “hot bodies” to choose from. They can scroll back and forth to look at the different options of bodies in Polaroid-like snapshots. We wanted the gallery to have a fun functionality and to feel approachable.

After the user chooses a body, they are taken through the steps of performing Hands-Only CPR with the help of a narrator. After being told to call 9-1-1 for help, the user is instructed to center themselves on the body they’ve chosen and start CPR. During this portion of the experience, we wanted to make it as realistic as possible. It was important for the design not to overwhelm the experience, so we kept this part minimal and put effort into adding a sense of realism to the required actions: the placement and interlocking of the hands, the compression of the chest, etc.

The user first controls hand placement on the chest using his or her mouse. In the next step, the user clicks the mouse to control the speed of compressions. The narrator instructs the user to compress the chest hard and fast and at the rate of the sound of the metronome. A gauge appears at the bottom of the screen, and the user is instructed to keep a steady pace in order to keep the ball within a red area (the marker that alerts them that they’re conducting CPR correctly).

When the exercise is over, the user has the option to keep practicing, select another body or easily share the Hands-Only CPR site with their friends via Facebook or Twitter.

To drive people to the site, PR outreach was conducted, as well as relevant blogger outreach to key verticals such as health and entertainment. We helped with the blogger list compilation and outreach, but AHA did their own PR. As far as other promotion, the biggest piece was the PR Newswire placement of a Times Square board and several other digital billboard placements around the country.

Online, the AHA used its existing site and Facebook page to drive the message. There were also banner placements in donated media across a number of sites, which helped drive new users to the hands-on experience.


How did we do this with no money?

Luckily, the idea and the good that it would do was interesting and compelling enough that people wanted to be a part of it and wanted to be the first to create such a tool.

We were able to create a team of like-minded companies and individuals who were willing to donate their time along with us to help the American Heart Association get the word out and, by extension, help to save lives.


Since its launch in 2009, this campaign has demonstrated great results in public awareness and understanding. The launch of the digital tool will continue to help build efficacy and willingness.

Some campaign results to date: 

  • Recognition: Net awareness of the campaign increased significantly since benchmark (16 percent to 21 percent).
  • Awareness: Overall awareness of Hands-Only CPR increased significantly from 56 percent to 63 percent.
  • Perceived efficacy: Significantly more adults viewed Hands-Only CPR to be as effective as traditional CPR (53 percent to 61percent) and believed that anyone can do it (52 percent to 56 percent). In the 2011 survey, ad-aware respondents were 1.74 times more likely than other respondents to agree that Hands-Only CPR can be just as effective as traditional CPR.
  • Willingness to use Hands-Only CPR: Significantly more adults say they were extremely or very likely to perform Hands-Only CPR in an emergency in 2010 (2009: 39 percent; 2010: 44 percent; 2011: 40 percent). Women represented the largest growth figures, from 40 percent to 47 percent in 2010.

This case study is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts