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‘I want to get cancer’: Irish campaign’s tagline draws controversy

“I want to get cancer,” says a woman, as she is miserably writing a letter in a cafe at the start of the ad.

Following her are several other individuals, including a researcher, a young man, a daughter, a couple, and a middle-aged man, all of whom repeat the same tagline, some adding that he “wants to get cancer so the other one won’t get it”. As audiences become more confused, a voice over explains at the end that the disease that will affect one in any two of us in our lifetime by 2020, and call for the audience’s action to donate to the Irish Cancer Society.

This ad is part of the Irish Cancer Society’s new campaign, “Get cancer”, which features a host of real life cancer with the catchy tagline to kick-start conversations around the disease.

Ray Sheerin, managing director of Chemistry, the campaign’s creative agency, said the ad aims to invoke conversation. “Not only will this campaign kick-start the conversation in the fight against cancer, but it’s an important rallying cry for the volunteers and money that the charity needs to continue its stellar work.”

“Whilst ‘Get cancer’ doesn’t shy away from hard and important facts, it delivers the message with optimism and strength. More people are surviving cancer than ever before thanks to improved research and development; in fact, one in four cancers are preventable.”

Since its launch last week, views for the 40-second ad on Irish Cancer Society’s Facebook page has rocketed to more than 740k, and 1.5k shares. Irish cancer society the Cancer Nurseline claimed a 100% surge in enquiries from members of the publish on the first day of the campaign compared to the daily average.

In terms of translating the initial reaction into direct action, the campaign may be a success. However, responses may not be as positive as expected.

“Terrible choice of wording and insensitive,” said a comment on the society’s Facebook page. “Tactless, insensitive and incredibly depressing way of trying to get a point across,” commented another.

“As a cancer survivor this gave me such a shock and made my blood run cold. I know your advertising team were trying to get people’s attention but really – this is so insensitive especially to survivors and those battling cancer.”

Currently, some people are asking the society to take down the ad. More than 400 netizens give “angry” reactions to the video.

The organisation’s head of communications Gráinne O’Rourke admits people have been startled and upset by the messages, but said hearing your doctor say the words ‘you have cancer’ is far more upsetting.

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