Sparking Debates Through Out Of Home Advertising


Sales Director Darren shares his views on the recent out of home Cancer Research Obesity campaign, without passing judgement on people’s opinion, this campaign has re-confirmed his belief that nothing sparks debate quite like out of home. 


The recent Cancer Research UK out of home (OOH) campaign has definitely caused a media storm, creating divided opinions from both sides of the argument. For those who have not seen the campaign, Cancer Research likened obesity to smoking, as a major contributory factor in the four big cancers. Their clever creative (and let’s face it, it is, we are all talking about it!) echoes cigarette packet design, the campaign has appeared across large format billboards and small format bus stops across the UK. 

The Metro has called the campaign ‘unhelpful’, claiming that obesity is less of a choice than smoking and likening the campaign to body shaming. A brief straw poll on my own Linkedin article applauds the campaign for sparking debate and raising awareness.

The very fact that the campaign is getting press attention means that it is doing its job. The campaign has been exposed to millions of consumers directly through the OOH campaign itself, it has resonated and engaged with millions more through secondary debate (or ‘legacy views’ if you want to coin a pithy term).

The power of creative in all formats is so important, but in the quick impact world of OOH, and especially roadside, should it not be the primary consideration? It seems obvious to say but great creative will elicit a better result than average creative, we have seen this with provable (clickable) media online. Do we need to put more thought into creative? Certainly.

This leads me onto addressing the response, whilst still trying to maintain a degree of impartiality. My personal opinion is that anything that can be done to reduce the devastating effects that cancer has, should be done. Campaigns, in general, are having to become harder hitting in order to gain cut-through in a massively cluttered environment. There’s a very strong chance that campaigns such as this are liable to upset people. Stephen Fry, a man significantly more eloquent than I, spoke in 2005 about people’s ‘right to be offended’:

“It’s now very common to hear people say, ‘I’m rather offended by that.’ As if that gives them certain rights. It’s actually nothing more… than a whine. ‘I find that offensive.’ It has no meaning; it has no purpose; it has no reason to be respected as a phrase. ‘I am offended by that.’ Well, so f**king what.”

I think that if people believe they have a ‘right to be offended’, then equally so we have a ‘right to offend’. The ASA basic guidelines are that advertising must be ‘legal, decent, honest and true’. If it fits these criteria then it’s all good by me.


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