Take a look at this image and tell me if you think there’s anything grossly wrong with it:
Apart from the munging of the phone number (deliberate) and the — ahem — unfortunate resemblance to a recent superhero movie (tragic), is there anything that stands out to you as being troubling?
That’s what I was thinking too when I made the ad. At the time I hadn’t been thinking of the Superman redux, so the image was come by more or less honestly — in fact when it was pointed out that the graphic was reminiscent of said film I almost decided to trash the whole damned thing and start over — but what I really wanted to convey was a sense of optimism and courage, two things cancer patients need in abundance.
I also wanted something clean and really punchy, since the ad would end up 25 feet wide and on a billboard. Thus powerful iconography and a simple, clear message were all part of the requirement. This particular ad is one of my favorites; I really, really like it.
Well, not everyone felt the same way. On one front there were internal complaints about it (there seemed to be a misunderstanding that we’re offering a cure for cancer, which we obviously are not and which the ad doesn’t even imply); but there were also complaints phoned in from the community. Evidently because some people do not survive cancer, the suggestion that others can and do is somehow offensive.
Now anyone who works in a PR or advertising capacity knows that creating an ad which results in public reaction is probably a good thing, even if all you hear is complaining. It means the ad is getting noticed. And of course the positive feedback we’ve received from cancer survivors and their families far outweighs the few complaints. This is an optimistic and empowering ad, and it beats the living shit out of the original concept brought to me.
But I wonder about the kind of mentality it requires to suggest that a cancer diagnosis automatically means a fatal prognosis. Those who object to the ad seem to be suggesting cancer = death, which just doesn’t wash for me. Of course I’ve never been diagnosed with cancer so I can’t really say what it’s like to face the illness, but I’m reasonably certain that, if I ever do end up with a malignant tumor, I’d much rather have a vision in mind of a superhero than, say, Ernest Hemingway.
(For the record, the original concept as presented to me was the slogan “Cancer sucks. Say it, fight it, cure it.” There’s no way you can attach a positive image to that slogan. Pictures of weeping children and sad-eyed puppies do not a good billboard make.)
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