Shock tactics - a reputation minefield or a risk worth taking?
Shock tactics - a reputation
minefield or a risk worth
Pancreatic Cancer Action advertising campaign
Limited resources – maximum impact!
Ali Stunt, CEO and Founder
Natasha North, Marketing and Communications Manager
About Pancreatic Cancer Action
Set up in 2010 by a rare survivor
Key aim is to get more people diagnosed in
time for surgery – only cure!
Focused on raising awareness of disease
Small charity with 2.5 full-time equivalent
No method of early detection
◦ Receives just 1% of cancer research funding
Chronic lack of awareness
◦ 70% of UK population do not know where
their pancreas is or what it does
◦ 50% patients never heard of disease before
their own diagnosis
Stand out and provoke thought
Generate interest so people read on
Get the most out of limited budget and
I wish I had… campaign
Why the campaign was necessary
There has been a huge improvement in
survival rates of many cancers in 40 years
Objectives of the campaign
Tackle low awareness
◦ Of the disease in general
◦ Of diagnosis, survival rates and lack of
◦ Of symptoms
Drive earlier diagnosis
◦ Get more people to ask their doctor
◦ Encourage doctors to be less ‘shy’ about
The advert featuring real
We did our research…
Measured how 115 people responded to the adverts.
Outcome: risk of offence was low once people had read
Online survey (2000 respondents)
Outcome: only 6% were angry and over 50% were
made more aware and wanted to do more.
In-depth interviews with people affected by different
Outcome: once the message was understood, they
were supportive of the advert.
Low cost – maximum impact
The adverts appeared only 9 times
over 4 days in regional newspapers in
London and Manchester.
Total spend for the initial hard-hitting
campaign was £15,000
Followed up with symptoms campaign
on London Underground featuring
same three patients….
The symptoms advert…
Social media went bonkers
Inundated with media calls in one day
Spokesperson in high demand
How we managed it
Respond to media enquiries quickly
Released regular statements online
and on social media
Extensive media coverage
The campaign reached well over 20 million people just in the UK and more globally (backed up
Over 150 pieces of press coverage relating to the advertising in the UK alone:
TV including Newsnight, Daybreak and Sky News
Online and printed national including The Times, Daily Mail and BBC News
Extensive radio coverage including most BBC stations, 5 Live and LBC
At least 100 regional pieces of coverage. Also:
International coverage including US Doctors TV, CBS Canada, BBC World Service and
Social media – Twitter mentions of pancreatic cancer up 69% on previous month of
campaign and over 100% increase in followers on Facebook.
Over £1m of highest quality earned media
What the comms team could
have done differently
Used a monitoring tool
Received more third party input
Impact of the campaign
Months after the campaign it is still being
43% of people who recognised campaign more
aware of the symptoms.
Traffic on explanatory page of website up
Donations up 60% on same period last year.
Modelled increase in pancreatic cancer
diagnosis 14% up.
Modelled number of lives saved = 36.
Impact of the campaign
Surge in petition signatures
Drug approved by Cancer Drugs Fund
Meeting with Jeremy Hunt and Lord
Offered speaking opportunities
Pancreatic cancer has higher profile
The challenges for a small team
• Lack of resource
• Managing damage limitation -
building bridges while fighting fires
• Supporting stakeholders
• Emotional impact
Was the campaign worth it?
As Philip Schofield said to the late Kerry
Harvey on This Morning:
Means to an end
Set out to shock in order to get attention and then use that attention to deliver an
Do your homework
Use research to assess the risk.
Don’t be put off by the impossible – be prepared to take a calculated risk.
Ride the momentum
use it to drive change
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