Cancer Society ruffles women's skirts

The Singapore Cancer Society's latest campaign asking women to lift their skirts seems to be garnering attention for bad copy instead of its nobler cancer prevention cause.

Created by Y&R Singapore, the campaign is currently running across social media and OOH mediums at various bus shelters and MRT stations.

The campaign mimicks Marilyn Monroe's iconic pose in her film The Seven Year Itch with local female celebrities. Running with the tagline "Lift your skirt. Save a life.", the ad attempts to cajole women to go for free pap smear screenings in May.

A spokesperson for the Singapore Cancer Society said: "Cervical cancer kills about 70 women each year. That's one life too many. We wanted an attention grabbing campaign to let women know that cervical cancer is highly preventable and curable when detected in its early stages."

However, women Marketing spoke to seemed to think their attention was drawn to other issues with the campaign instead of its cancer prevention message.

Evangeline Low, 35, commented that the ad is somewhat silly, adding that she did not initially notice the bits on the pap smear and had to read the fine print. "People don't know enough about cervical cancer, let alone pap smears. They should focus on the test itself."

Renata Hossain, 23, said that she found the ad rather offensive. "I've seen it at the train station and honestly found it silly because it really doesn't seem to portray the right message."

However, Pamela Chia, 25, who came across the ad at the clinic said the free pap smear really caught her eye. "Cervical cancer is a really scary thought, but I think the ad makes women realise that it does not have to be, if you do whatever you can to prevent it."

The ad seems to be making men squirm as well.

Kevin Seah, 27, said that he was rather uncomfortable with the ad but it has met its objectives. "While some might find it distasteful, at least people are aware of the free Pap smears."

Creatives such as Ng Khee Jin, managing director & creative director of Wild Advertising & Marketing, found the ad is "stunningly misguided and totally offensive; and if it is at all eye catching, it is for all the wrong reasons."

"It is a cheap reprise of a famous photograph which instead of showing empathy, seems to be taking an insensitive dig at the embarrassment women face in having a pap smear," he said.

He added that in a conservative Asian society, women are generally embarrassed by something so personal and private, even though it is a medical procedure.

"Instead of homing in on that insight, why are they putting more women off by flaunting the embarrassment of going through a pap smear?" he asks.

Managing director of Host Singapore, Dan Gibson however, liked the ad.

"Smear tests as a celebration of femininity? Why not? How reassuring for women to be reminded that even Marilyn Monroe needed to go for the test. As a strategy, 'Lift your skirt' beats 'Shove it under the carpet' every time."

"I look forward to the 'Elvis and his testicles' execution for the guys," Gibson said.

Melvin Kuek, managing director, Y&R Advertising said the agency has noted the feedback and will take it onboard as well as take steps if needed.

"But otherwise we are happy that the issue of Cervical Cancer, which kills an abnormally high number of women here compared to the world, in Singapore has finally got into the spotlight, and we do hope the attention is more on that than the communication."