Bowel Cancer New Zealand pairs up with Shortland Street to raise awareness via TBWA

TBWA Auckland has taken a unique approach to raising awareness for Bowel Cancer New Zealand (BCNZ) by working with the country’s longest-running soap opera.

For the campaign, the agency and producers of Shortland Street agreed the much-loved character Damo Johnson (played by Grant Lobban) would be diagnosed with bowel cancer.

Over a period of three weeks, Johnson displayed several signs and symptoms which people can be too embarrassed to talk about, before undergoing testing, diagnosis and surgery.

The storyline was supported by a TVC reminding viewers that the disease could strike anyone, from any street.

BCNZ also closely monitored commentary among the show’s social media audience, joining in whenever the Facebook conversation turned to relevant issues like diagnosis, symptoms, treatment, and outlook.

New Zealand has one of the world’s highest rates of bowel cancer, affecting more people than breast cancer and prostate cancer combined, yet awareness remains low.  

Christy Peacock, the executive creative director who developed the campaign, says it’s a sad fact of life that few are motivated to really support a health issue until it affects someone we care about.

“Working with such a well-loved character gave people a reason to care: it means a huge portion of the population now has a friend who has experienced bowel cancer. That provided great traction we can draw upon to educate Kiwis about this disease, which affects so people, but which still flies under the radar.”

Rebekah Heal, general manager at BCNZ, added that a lack of awareness is one of the key challenges it faces.

“Bowel cancer responds well to early treatment, with very high survival rates. Shortland Street very generously gave us an unprecedented platform to encourage New Zealanders to talk about and recognise symptoms earlier on. This increased awareness will help us save a lot of lives.” 

Client: Bowel Cancer New Zealand
Agency: TBWA Group NZ
South Pacific Pictures

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