Making cancer cute

The ad agency has struck again with this strikingly stupid nonprofit ad.

Written by
Jeff Brooks
May 14, 2014

The victim: Movember (the organisation that challenges men to change their appearance and the face of men’s health by growing a moustache in November). The offending agency: the slash-challenged TBWA\Chiat|Day.

Now I can see the power in giving people the opportunity to beat up a terrible disease; there are certainly a couple of diseases that I wish I could kick to pieces. But when you symbolise that by making the kickers look like homophobic thugs and the disease look like a cute team mascot, well, you’ve turned the concept upside do

I actually wonder if the creators of this advert even watched it. Didn’t anyone raise their hand and say ‘Umm…it looks like we’re kicking Mickey Mouse’s butt’. Of course not. The ad agency geniuses were wrapped in their usual world of abstraction. In all their creativity, they missed the central fact that prostate cancer is a terrible thing. It’s not a cute and goofy costume. It is a real life disease that hurts and can be fatal.

If you want to move people to fight prostate cancer show them there is a problem, make that problem real and give them a meaningful action they can take. Finally show how their actions will help to make progress against the disease.

Abstract symbolism doesn’t achieve any of that.

Shockingly, this video was not the only offending ad for this campaign. 

Really? Prostate cancer is picking up prostitutes? That’s what has our thug-protagonists all worked up?

I am amazed at how this ad agency has worked for this charity. They started off badly with a pointless, dumb and misdirected abstract concept. And then they managed to get surreally worse.

So remember the standard warning for when an ad agency comes up with a clever, conceptual and intangible idea to represent your cause: just say no!

About the author: Jeff Brooks

Jeff Brooks

Jeff Brooks, creative director at TrueSense Marketing, has served the nonprofit community for more than 20 years, working as a writer and creative director on behalf of a variety of organisations, including CARE, Bible League International, World Vision, Feeding America, World Relief and dozens of urban rescue missions and Salvation Army divisions. He blogs at Future Fundraising Now, podcasts at Fundraising is Beautiful and is a columnist forFundraising Successmagazine. In previous careers, he's been an English teacher and a classical musician. He lives in Seattle in the USA.

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