Commercial Approvals Bureau gives Breast Cancer Foundation okay to show nipples in new ad

The New Zealand Breast Cancer foundation has launched a new campaign via Colenso BBDO that features actress Geraldine Brophy displaying pictures of a series of women’s breasts to illustrate what changes are likely to take place in the event of breast cancer. 

The ad, which is based on a successful Scottish campaign featuring Elaine C Smith, was initially meant to run last year, but the Commercial Approvals Bureau blocked this move on account of the rule that female nipples are not allowed in television advertising. 

According to an article published on Stuff at the time, the original Scottish ad resulted in a 50 percent increase in the number of women visiting the doctor for a breast cancer check-up. But these statistics were not sufficient to convince the Bureau to relax its rule. 

In response to the Bureau’s refusal to run the ad, Colenso improvised by developing ‘The Naked Truth’ campaign, which featured a series of women covering their breasts with items that served as metaphors of the early symptoms of breast cancer.

Adele Gautier, the comms manager at the Breast Cancer Foundation, says that the success of this censored campaign and the positive feedback from Kiwi women caused the Commercial Approvals Bureau to backtrack on its original decision and allow for the ad to run this year. 

The only condition attached to the Bureau’s approval is that the ad can only run after 8.30pm to ensure that the content isn’t seen by a younger audience. 

Gautier says that the feedback to the ad has been overwhelmingly positive, but there have also been a few complaints via Facebook and email.

“We’ve received about three emails from concerned people about the ad, and I really understand where they’re coming from – it isn’t for everyone,” says Gautier.

And while the TVC might be slightly provocative, it does serve an important purpose. Gautier says that it’s not about sexualising the breasts in any way, but rather about educating women on what to look out for. This point is further accentuated in final moments of the ad, which prompt viewers to visit the Anychanges.co.nz website for additional information. 

In the past, most breast cancer advertising has referred to symptoms without being able to illustrate exactly what they look like. The reliance on verbal references meant that viewers had to interpret the symptoms based on the adjectives that were scripted into the TVC. 

By describing the symptoms and then showing imagery of what the words actually mean, the new TVC gives Kiwi women a more accurate indication of what to look out for—and this could prove life saving. 

Gautier says that if breast cancer is caught early enough on a mammogram before other symptoms develop, there is 93 percent chance of the woman surviving for at least five years after initial diagnosis. If symptoms develop, this drops to a 73 percent chance.

“This data is from 2011, and we currently waiting for the release of new data,” says Gautier. “We expect this gap to have narrowed, because doctors have become better at treating breast cancer over time.”

Although mammograms are effective at picking up breast cancer in its early stages, Gautier also warns that these tests aren’t flawless and that some cases aren’t detected, even when other symptoms are present. 

She says that sharing this information is not an attempt “to terrify people,” but rather to illustrate the importance of women familiarising themselves with the symptoms of the disease. 

This message is further consolidated by a YouTube video, also conceptualised by Colenso BBDO, that advertises Breast Cream, a product that the agency developed in conjunction with Skinfood with the aim of encouraging women to massage their breasts more regularly to make it more likely to pick up any changes.


“It’s just a nourishing moisturiser, but applying it regularly to your breasts helps you get to know what your ‘normal’ feels and looks like,” says the write-up on the product, which can be purchased via the Foundation’s website. “So if you ever notice any changes you can tell your doctor straight away.”

The launch of the product has however not been met with a positive response from the public, with various Facebook commenters pointing out that the cream isn’t made from natural ingredients. 

Other commenters have countered these criticisms by pointing out that the cream is simply about raising awareness and reminding women to familiarise themselves with their breasts.   

Gautier says that over the last twenty years breast cancer mortality rates have gone down by over 30 percent, but the number of diagnoses has increased, meaning that it remains important to teach Kiwi women what to look out for. 

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