ASA rules in favour of Pancreatic Cancer Action advertising campaign

Complaints about an advertising campaign launched by Pancreatic Cancer Action in February 2014 have not been upheld (http://bit.ly/RM4VoG).  The printed adverts, featuring real patients saying they wish they had another form of cancer with a higher survival rate, received 121 complaints. 
Ali Stunt, founder of the charity and rare survivor of pancreatic cancer said, “We are delighted with the decision by ASA.  Despite only nine insertions of the advert in London and Manchester press, the advertising campaign attracted global interest, and reached millions of people worldwide from the resulting coverage in various forms of media.  It was the most influential advertising campaign for pancreatic cancer to date.”
The objective of the campaign was to raise awareness of pancreatic cancer and its symptoms.  “With greater awareness, we hope to see more people being diagnosed earlier and an increase in the shockingly low survival rate,” adds Ali. 
The adverts featured real patients, Andy Luck, 42, Kerry Harvey, 24, and Penny Lown, 51, wishing they had testicular/breast/cervical cancer, which although would be a devastating diagnosis, would offer them an 97%/85%/67%  chance of survival.  
“The adverts provide a genuine insight into how it feels to be diagnosed with a disease that leaves you with very little hope,” says Ali. “Currently, UK patients face just a three per cent chance of survival, which is the lowest of all 22 common cancers.”
Pancreatic cancer is the fifth biggest cancer killer in the UK and only receives one per cent cancer research funding.  The three per cent survival rate has not improved in 40 years. 
“Kerry Harvey passed away on 22nd February, just ten months after diagnosis, reflecting the very sad and grim reality of the disease,” says Ali.  “Despite being very ill herself, she bravely discussed the advert and highlighted the issues about pancreatic cancer on TV, radio and in national press. We are so grateful to her for doing so much to raise awareness.”  
Given the nature of the campaign, Team Darwin, the advertising agency that worked with Pancreatic Cancer Action to devise the advert, researched it amongst all key audiences.  The campaign was researched in three ways – led by neuro-research and backed up by Qualitative & Quantative research. 
Team Darwin also spoke to people who had been affected by other cancers as well as those who’d been affected by pancreatic cancer.  The campaign researched very well and it was found that once people understood the advert, the risk  of genuine offence was very low.
“Ultimately, the campaign has lead to the issues about pancreatic cancer being discussed worldwide as well as prompting the general public to find out more about the symptoms to look out for by visiting our website,” says Ali.  “We had an increase of 260% visits to the symptoms part of our website. “
Post-campaign research has revealed that approximately 43% people who recognised the campaign are now more aware of the symptoms. 
Ali says to those who complained and were upset by the advert: “We are of course sorry if the tag line caused upset to anyone affected by the cancers mentioned in the adverts but, as we found with the majority of those we have engaged with, once the true message is understood, they will not see the adverts as a personal attack.”
For more information about pancreatic cancer and its symptoms, please visit www.pancreaticcanceraction.org or call 030 040 1770.