Advert criticism a reminder of risks

There has been a mixed reaction to a new advert from the Irish Cancer Society.

The advert’s “I want to get cancer” line has been called a “disgrace” by a commentator in the Irish Times, who questioned its impact on those being treated for cancer or recently bereaved.

But others have supported it, with a cancer researcher dismissing the criticism as “pedantic and perplexing“.

For its part, the Irish Cancer Charity has defended its “hard-hitting and impactful campaign“.

It’s not the only advert to generate controversy over the last couple of weeks: a Montana anti-drugs campaign has made headlines after depicting Elsa from Frozen as an addict.

This kind of controversy is nothing new, and we in the UK are no strangers to provocative charity adverts. Pancreatic Cancer Action’s 2014 “I wish I had” campaign sparked huge debate, while, looking further back, many found the the Barnardo’s Giving Children Back Their Future campaign upsetting.

The Irish Cancer Society advert is another reminder that provocative, shocking adverts can be effective at generating publicity (often worth many times more than the media spend) and ensuring your messages are remembered.

But charities have to balance that with the knoweldge that some people are likely to be upset or offended by them. And while no one wants to produce bland advertising, if you get the balance wrong then you run the risk of doing more harm than good.

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