Cancer Research UK ‘breaks down taboo’ around cancer with live colonoscopy ad

The charity will air the first ever live colonoscopy on television in a bid to talk about “the reality of cancer”.

Cancer Research UK will air a live colonoscopy during an ad break on Channel 4 to bring home the “reality of cancer”.

The 90-second advert, titled ‘Live from the Inside’ and created by Anomaly, will be shown at approximately 3.25pm today (16 January) and will allow viewers to watch a procedure to remove bowel polyps as it takes place. While most polyps don’t develop into cancer, some do, therefore removing them can help prevent bowel cancer developing.

A 60-second version of the ad will be shown at 9.30pm in the second break of Channel 4 drama No Offence – currently attracting an average audience of 1.9 million viewers.

A doctor will explain what viewers can see throughout the live broadcast. Cancer Research UK will also be streaming live on Facebook with a cancer nurse to answer viewers’ questions and the ad will be available across Channel 4’s social media accounts.

The advert is part of Cancer Research UK’s ‘Right Now’ campaign. Launched on Boxing Day, the campaign shows the reality of day-to-day life for those affected by cancer, bringing together the real stories of patients and their loved ones, as well as researchers and medical staff.

Cancer Research UK’s executive director of fundraising and marketing Ed Aspel says the live ad is not trying to be “innovative for the sake of it”. Instead, the charity aims to find new or novel ways to get its message across and be more impactful.

“We are always looking to improve the way we do things. Cut-through and memorability are important, but people need to take actions as a result,” he tells Marketing Week.

“Half of us at some stage of our lives will be diagnosed with cancer. It’s important to break down barriers and taboos around cancer. With this ad we want to normalise the conversation around cancer so that people can talk about what they can do to reduce their chances [of getting the disease].”

When questioned on whether the brand is worried about people reacting negatively to the live ad, Aspel says there is a need to show people the disease’s “true nature”.

“Whenever we put out a ‘Right Now’ campaign, it features people’s true stories. No doubt for some people there’s an element of discomfort, but that’s the nature of what cancer is. We think it’s important for people to understand what cancer is but also at the same time to balance that with hope and a positive message,” he says.

While there are currently no other plans by the charity to air more live ads exploring other body parts, Aspel does not want to dismiss the idea entirely.

He concludes: “It’s important for us to look at communications that have the greatest impact and make people get behind us and support us. If the ad is effective on that basis, we will look at whether there is more we can do.”



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  1. Macy Graver 16 Jan 2017

    The majority of people reading this have known or currently know someone who has or has had cancer before. It is a term that everyone should be familiar with, but unless it effects someone near to us, do we really understand the reality of what having cancer truly is? The fact that the Cancer Research UK is bringing to light what having cancer is actually like and how to prevent it will educate so many. It is so easy to forget that cancer exists if you are not struggling with it, but this article hit the nail on the head with the statistic on how many of us are bound to be affected by cancer soon enough if we are not already. Encouraging people to get examinations and educate themselves on what they can do to reduce their chances of getting cancer is something that has the potential of saving a life. Someone who is at heavy risk of this disease could be flipping through television channels and see the ad that could change their life. If they were to have caught and ridden the cancer just in time, without any further issues, suddenly the value of that commercial that got them to get checked is priceless. Hopefully the airing of the advertisement will fulfill all that it was intended to do and bring cancer all of the awareness that it deserves.

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