When it comes to someone else's hairstyle, big wedding, tropical vacation, or a sweet new ride, it's perfectly normal to be envious. But someone else's cancer? Who in the world would envy ANY kind of potentially fatal disease?! People who have pancreatic cancer, apparently, according to the British organization Pancreatic Cancer Action.
Their new, completely tone-deaf campaign that launched this week aims to raise awareness of pancreatic cancer by not just reporting the unnerving statistics, like how those diagnosed have just a 3 percent survival rate. No, the print and video ads also feature patients declaring cringe-worthy statements like, "I wish I had testicular cancer,” or “I wish I had breast cancer.” Because those are types of cancer with higher survival rates.
Here's the controversial ad ...
The inspiration for the campaign came from the organization’s founder and CEO Ali Stunt, who in a blog post defensively titled, "No Cancer Advert That Saves a Single Life Can Be Accused of Going Too Far," admitted:
I did feel at times that I wish I had a cancer that would give much better chance of survival; as the odds of me being around for my loved ones for longer would be significantly improved. ... [A friend with breast cancer] was telling me how grueling her treatment was and how difficult it was to cope with the diagnosis. While I was sympathetic and empathetic, I did find it very hard to listen to her tell me about how tough it was and that the side effects of her treatment were awful … I couldn’t help but think every now and then, ‘It’s alright for you, you have an 85 percent chance that you will still be here in five years time – while my odds are only 3 percent.'
Eesh. As admirable as it is that Stunt was so open about her uncomfortable truth, the campaign still goes about what she was trying to accomplish in the wrong way. It's also rather ridiculous to assert that as long as it ends up saving someone's life, a cancer awareness ad can do no wrong, no matter what offensive message it sends. That's just not true.
This campaign would have been less offensive and more effective if it had stuck simply to the cold, hard facts. Perhaps another, much more sympathetic spin: It's an absolute travesty that MANY cancers are considered "rare" -- such as pancreatic, and brain, pancreatic, thyroid, and stomach cancers; leukemia and lymphoma; all pediatric cancers, and others -- and therefore lose out on valuable research dollars that save lives. In other words, Stunt really is trying to send a message we need to hear. But the way the organization went about it is just horrible. Cancer is not a competition. And framing it that way helps no one.
How do you feel about this campaign?