Cutting above the noise: Colenso BBDO call on family members for Breast Cancer Awareness Month

The New Zealand Breast Cancer Foundation and Colenso BBDO had to quickly alter their latest campaign after receiving complaints about the use of the word ‘contagious’ – but Colenso BBDO creative director Maria Devereux doesn’t want the controversy to take away from the campaign’s message: every eligible woman in New Zealand should be getting mammograms.

The campaign was initially launched at the beginning of October to kick off Breast Cancer Awareness month. Appearing on television, social, digital and radio, the campaign shows stylised cells replicating, as each member of the family shares their experience with breast cancer.  

It initially read: “Breast cancer is contagious. It touches the whole family. But a mammogram gives a better chance of survival.”

After feedback from survivors and members of the breast cancer community, Colenso BBDO and the Breast Cancer Foundation New Zealand immediately amended the campaign to exclude the word ‘contagious’.

Colenso BBDO creative director Maria Devereux says it was never the intention to upset anybody and the ad had been created in association with the breast cancer community.

“We never wanted to upset anybody, we just wanted people to notice and listen and for women to get mammograms. We were surprised by the amount of outcry and as an agency, it was our duty to change the line instantly which we did.”

While breast cancer awareness is high in New Zealand, as many 30 percent of eligible women are not getting their free mammograms. Women between 45 and 69 can get a free mammogram every two years in New Zealand.

The word contagious actually has two definitions, one of which is the ability for a disease to spread, but the other is how a feeling is likely to spread or affect others. Devereux says they had hoped the second meaning of the word would be clear in the campaign but acknowledges how it could be interpreted the other way.

“I’ve had first-hand experience with my Mum, and I know the emotional spread breast cancer has and how a whole family is impacted when a woman is diagnosed.”

Devereux says she was conscious of the fact the campaign got the wrong type of attention but says the conversation quickly changed.

The campaign is supported with a unique digital experience, with a specially designed website to encourage users to book their mammogram. The click-through experience follows the same pattern as the TVC, but allows users to hear more stories and also links to the 0800 number for mammogram bookings.

The Breast Cancer Foundation last put a campaign out encouraging mammograms as a form of breast cancer screening two years ago, in another campaign via Colenso BBDO. Called ‘The Unignorable Lump’, the campaign used retargeting banners and pre-roll across multiple platforms to follow a very specific audience of women around the internet. It continued to follow the target demographic until they clicked on the banner to book a mammogram. 

This year’s campaign broadens the reach, by sharing the experience of husbands, children and parents when a woman in their lives experiences breast cancer.

“This year we didn’t just target women, we’re talking to husbands and family members and appealing to them to convince their loved ones to get a mammogram. It’s a different approach and it seems to be working well for us. We wanted to ignite a conversation. When women aren’t getting mammograms even when they’re free, you need to motivate people to do so.”

Last year’s campaign, ‘The Survivor’s Collection’, was aimed at getting women to check their own breasts. The advertising angle is chosen by the Breast Cancer Foundation each year and is aimed at raising awareness for an area of breast cancer detection that needs the most publicity at the time.

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Caitlin Salter is a freelance writer who contributes to various publications at ICG Media.

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