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Column: We made our cancer awareness campaign ‘sexy’ – here’s why

Scantily-dressed models promoting cancer awareness? If it saves one life, it will have been worth it, writes Conor O’Leary.

Conor O'Leary

WHEN BRAY CANCER Support Centre wanted to target the 18-30 demographic, we knew we would have to shake things up a bit. We wanted to make younger people more aware of their bodies and we wanted to make sure they were being pro-active about checking themeselves. We needed something cheeky and eye-catching, so we came up with our campaign called Check Me Out.

The words ‘check me out’ accompanied by images of scantily dressed models, are to encourage people to check out the models (of course) but also to remind them to check themselves out. Everyone assumes that cancer is an older person’s illness, so we needed a way to grab the attention of younger people. Cancer awareness campaigns can often fall on deaf ears for some. So with this we wanted to grab the ears and the eyes of people with what some people might describe as a rísque or cheeky campaign.

Our campaign is up front and in your face, but that’s what marketing is all about – getting people talking – and if these photos and t-shirts don’t do that I don’t know what will. This kind of youthful, young campaign is about starting a conversation. We didn’t want to have a typical campaign, where we just talk about the cancer and how to stay healthy. While that is an important message, we needed something to stick in people’s minds and we hope these images do just that and that people will say: ‘hey, did you see that cancer awareness poster with the half naked person on it?’ Then they can start a conversation about cancer.

Young people think they are invincible; it’s only when you are older you realise that we are not. Young people can get cancer. We hope this will raise awareness, so that we can stop cancer before it starts. You have a better chance of surviving cancer if you are pro-active and we should be encouraging people to start checking their bodies from an early age – not when they are over forty or fifty, but from teenagers on. Because the earlier you know, the better.

Media-driven world

Getting younger people to think about the future can be difficult. Trying to hammer the message home that people should watch what they drink, what they eat and the importance of exercise is a difficult task as people rarely think at that age that it can happen to them. Young people are carefree, and they should be, as the majority of them won’t have to deal with cancer. But that doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t be looking after their health either. We wanted to make younger people aware of their own bodies, so that they will start paying attention, so that if they notice a change, they will get it checked.

In marketing they say ‘sex sells’ and while this is a light-hearted campaign it does have a serious message. We are not trying to be tasteless, but this world is media-driven. We knew the only way to access this age group was to have a heavily social media driven campaign that would stand out in the crowd. We also knew that younger people are very fashion conscious. And while they may not wear a pin or badge to support a cause, they may put on one of our t-shirts.

Getting young people to pay attention can be a difficult thing to do. If our cheeky campaign gets a bit of a reaction and leads to saving someone’s life, well there is no fault in that.

Conor O’Leary is the Outreach Coordinator at Bray Cancer Support Centre.

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Column: We made our cancer awareness campaign ‘sexy’ – here’s why
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  • Check Me Out

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    Irish Pro Wrestler Prince Devitt
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(All images via Conor O’Leary/Bray Cancer Support Centre)

CheckMeOut is a new campaign aiming to raise awareness through the younger generation of the importance of checking your body for any warning signs of cancer. The hope is that everyone who obtains one of the transfer tattoos provided will place it on a part of their body and tweet/Facebook the image along with #CheckMeOut. For more information on the campaign you can go to the website, Twitter or Facebook page. The campaign is being run in association with Bray Cancer Support Centre.

About the author:

Conor O'Leary

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