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.