Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Is Fake 'n' Bake the new smoking?

Caught a Newswire yesterday that The Canadian Dermatology Association has launched a new campaign to raise awareness about the risks of tanning beds:

There are also print ads:

The campaign site includes video files of the PSAs, as well as printable PDFs of the print ads/posters. And it has in-depth stories behind the women of the campaign.

From the news release:

"Indoor tanning before the age of 30 has been associated with a significant increase in the risk of melanoma, and recently sunbeds (UV tanning beds) were moved up to the highest cancer risk category - group 1 - 'carcinogenic to humans' by the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer.

'Research shows 70 percent of indoor tanners are female, primarily 16 to 29 years old. Indoor tanning at this age increases the risk of developing skin cancer. It is very important for women to be aware of the risks of artificial tanning,' said Cheryl Rosen, dermatologist and national director of CDA's Sun Awareness Program.


The posters feature actual melanoma survivors who are urging their peers to learn the facts about indoor tanning. In each case, the women thought tanning made them look beautiful but they had no idea that in a few short years they would be battling melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer."

It's an important message — and given the facts quite a timely social marketing effort. But is it the right approach?

If we are to look at the issue in Acart's own SIMPl model, for younger target markets indoor tanning as a major cancer risk would be all the way to the left, in the "uninformed" zone:

(That is, if you're not old enough to remember when the even nastier old-school beds went out of fashion.)

Our communications strategy for this would be "to focus on informing target audiences about the basic facts". That's standard. But I wonder if the creative is strong enough to even get people's attention for that long.

Testimonial can be a powerful thing. And these women's stories are truly moving. But the problem with health testimonials is that they tend to take a standard format. Whether on TV, print, or radio, they all start to look and sound the same.

In print, I think these ads try to say too much, when they should say one surprising thing about UV risk and say it SIMPLY and LOUD. Same with the TV — one story, with some buildup and reveal would be enough to get people making the connection and seeking out more info.

The biggest barrier to getting the public to take a new (to them) hazard seriously is cynicism. When faced with endless (and similar) campaigns, it's easy to tune out the less common messages, and dismiss them as hysteria.

I really do hope this message gets through to people, because I really hate cancer. But I think this issue has a lot of work ahead of it if it's going to be the new smoking.

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