Next month is Bowel Cancer Awareness Month and to get the message out there, this weekend a campaign showing that bowel cancer can affect young people is rolling out. It will hit our screens, radios, streets and papers thanks to the goodwill of agencies and media companies offering pro bono creative and media space.
Called ‘Never too Young’, the campaign features eight people all at various stages of having had or currently living with bowel cancer alongside the tagline “Bowel cancer can look like this”.
The hope is it will raise awareness among young people that they too can get bowel cancer, a message particularly meaningful to its creator Chelsea Halliwell, a survivor of bowel cancer and marketing, communications and strategy specialist at Resolve Communications.
“I was fortunate that my doctor acted quickly, and I was in for surgery the following week. Six months of intensive chemotherapy followed, and I’m now in the clear,” she says.
“Too often, it’s too late, because although these people, in their 20s, 30s and 40s, have been describing their classic bowel cancer symptoms to their doctor, they have been excluded from diagnostic testing because of their age,” says Halliwell.
She says New Zealand needs to start talking about this rising epidemic because bowel cancer kills more people in New Zealand than breast and prostate cancer combined, but awareness in the under 50 age group "is as low as you can go".
“There’s so much research being done now about the rapid increase of bowel cancer in younger people, and the theories are that causes are environmental, with diet and physical activity having a role to play,” she says.
The campaign falls in time to mark Bowel Cancer Awareness Month in June and will run in association with Bowel Cancer New Zealand, for which Halliwell is a volunteer community ambassador.
It all started over coffee, when Halliwell explained the idea to her friend Tania Biddles who is also the managing director of Christchurch's Q Brand Agency. Biddles was immediately on board, with her agency providing full creative direction of the campaign.
“Tania has been there for me through all of this, providing so much advice, time, creative juice, and people power to make it happen,” says Halliwell.
From there, the last two months have been about spreading the word and Halliwell says nearly every advertiser in the country has wanted to help, which she believes it’s down to the power of personal connection.
Among those lending a hand are media buying agencies, media companies, out of home companies, photographers.
It aired on Seven Sharp last night; will be seen in half-page print ads in the New Zealand Herald; will be on the radio with MediaWorks and NZME; on bus shelters, bus backs and malls with the help of Go Media, Adshel and Ooh! Media; and in street posters with Phantom Billstickers- really everywhere except for paid TV.
“Nobody has said no. Everyone has said yes,” says Halliwell.
Biddles is no stranger to working with agencies and media companies on pro bono or reduced-rate campaigns for charity, and says as because those businesses are always being asked to help out, they often have to choose those closest to their hearts and values.
For the bowel cancer awareness campaign, the fact it’s targeting younger people is appealing to the advertising and media industry as there’s a lot of younger people in it. On top of that, Biddles says it was amazing how many people they spoke to had experienced bowel cancer in some way.
“It's much more widespread than people realise. The things that gets us is the stories.”
She adds that it's been nice to see the industry be able to give back alongside all the corporate work it does.
When speaking about how she sees the campaign, Halliwell hopes it will do for Bowel Cancer what the Pink campaign does for Breast Cancer Foundation.
October is Breast Cancer Month and in May, Pink Ribbon Breakfasts are run by businesses, families and friendship groups as another way of raising money and awareness. Last year $1.8 million was raised through Pink Ribbon Breakfasts. So far this year, 3183 breakfasts have been hosted and $357,118 has been raised according to the Breast Cancer Foundation New Zealand.
Like the Pink campaign, Halliwell is confident 'Never too Young' is going to make a difference for bowel cancer awareness.
"I know there will be young people out there who have symptoms who don’t know what they have. I hope they go and get checked."
A full list of supporters can be seen below:
- Q Brand Agency
- Resolve Communications
- Lee Howell photography
- Popular film production
- Go Media
- Look Good, Feel Better
- oOh! Media
- APN outdoor
- LUMO digital
- QMS media
- Shout Media
- Phancybox SEO
- Fairfax Media