A brand campaign that misses the target

Thursday 14th, January 2016

I came across some print advertisements developed for the Breast Cancer Foundation in Singapore on Ads Of The World.

Now, this is a public service campaign that tries to create awareness of the need for breast self-examination by women from time to time.

A campaign off-target

Clearly, this is a campaign that aims at the young, social media savvy young woman. What else explains placing the core idea in the context of a Twitter, Instagram and a Facebook logo? The core idea of the campaign is quite simply this, “If only you checked your breasts as often”.

Very attention-grabbing and very laudable too. However, this is also deeply troubling. Suggesting that we take the time out from checking for social media updates to do something as serious as a health prognosis suddenly makes the idea very flippant.

It detracts from the seriousness of the idea that it is indeed possible for a woman to make a preliminary self-examination and be conscious of any changes that would need medical intervention.

Does the Breast Cancer Foundation seriously expect that women are going to drop their phones every morning to examine themselves? This seems very unlikely – comparing the time spent on a breast self exam to reading an update is like comparing apples and oranges.

Creating a fear psychosis

There is an alternative point of view – as quoted in this newspaper report – that NGOs and the diagnostics industry are promoting something that has little or no scientific validity. That, in turn, ends up promoting anxiety and self-doubt amongst women who detect something suspicious.

According to the medical professional quoted, “If you get a lump you should definitely get it checked. What I can’t say is that checking yourself is a particularly good way of going about saving lives”.

Yet another study done in 2008 reports that breast self-examination may end up with the rather unfortunate consequence of encouraging more biopsies to be done. The mere suspicion is likely to cause panic, creating anxiety and stress for women.

Age on her side

Is breast self-examination something to be done by women of all ages? Clearly not. We can imply that the campaign is targeted at a younger demographic, say 35 but clearly this is not the age at which women need to get alarmed.

In the United States, new guidelines issued by the National Cancer Institute clearly specify that regular screenings begin at age 45. The earlier recommendation suggested age 40 as the appropriate age to begin.

Much ado about nothing

It would seem that the Breast Cancer Foundation’s advertising campaign is clearly another case of “too much, too little”. It is worth wondering if the hand of Big Pharma can be sniffed, as happens in most such cases.

Giving credit where it’s due

In all fairness, it must be mentioned though that the campaign scores strongly on the visual treatment. The use of negative space to show the act of self-examination is very clever. Each of the three logos has been well-adapted and the effect is very natural.

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