Saturday, 27 June 2009

Is this ad offensive?

Some Lower Hutt residents are unhappy with a billboard promoting breast cancer awareness, with the words 'Seriously, breast cancer's not a big deal'. The billboard promotes the Breast Cancer Research Trust, and was designed by Saatchi & Saatchi.

Advertising of this sort brings up a world of thorny issues. Does is it encourage people to lobby for a share of the health dollar, against medical and ethical good sense (eg Herceptin)? Why should a Trust which researches breast cancer have to rely on fundraising? Is an advertising campaign the best way to promote breast cancer awareness, and is it a bit on the nose that Saatchi & Saatchi should profit from it?

Intriguing stuff to ponder ... but the question I'm interested in is whether the ad is actually offensive. A woman quoted in the article, who has breast cancer herself, says of the billboard, 'It trivialises what we're going through'. I don't believe it does - unless you interpret what's clearly supposed to be an ironic statement really, really literally. To me, the slogan 'Seriously, breast cancer's not a big deal' seems obviously intended to challenge people's (presumed) apathy around the illness. I'd think that most people would interpret it the same way.

It's understandable that people with a potentially terminal illness might react differently to this campaign than others. But we others are the target of the campaign: we're the ones supposed to have our awareness raised by it. I'm not sure that this is an effective campaign - I don't know enough about breast cancer or public health stuff to form an opinion one way or the other - but if it is effective, should women who've suffered breast cancer seek to censor it?

Of course, the billboard's slogan was intended to be provocative. If being provocative is a sign of effectiveness for a campaign (and I'm not convinced it is), this ad is a winner.


Anonymous said...

As the daughter, grandaughter and neice of breastcancer survivors (and some who did die from the disease) with the genes that give me a 90% chance of getting BC in my lifetime, I don't find the ad offensive. It's an attitude we suscribe to in our family.

Julie said...

I saw one of the billboards last night and was quite shocked. It seems to me that it's along the same lines as the ALAC advert some of us were concerned about earlier in the year (although obviously without the harmful rape myths). The group behind the advertising only discussed it with a relevant survivors group at the last minute, when it was too late to change, much like ALAC's "consultation" with Rape Crisis etc. I'm not sure it's necessary to create trauma or upset for the group you want to help in a bid to raise money for them...