Cancer Society Launches Largest Single-Issue Ad Campaign

Sen. Hillary Clinton's (D-N.Y.) new "American Health Choices Plan" may get a serendipitous boost from The American Cancer Society, which is launching its largest-ever single-issue national advertising campaign. The campaign is a big departure for the 94-year-old national volunteer organization, which traditionally focuses its advertising efforts on prevention and early detection.

The national integrated campaign, via Atlanta-based T.G. Madison, is as unequivocal in its way as was Michael Moore's recent film on U.S. health-care inequities, "Sicko." ACS's message: Health care must be a priority in the next election because lack of--and inadequate--health coverage for Americans is the second-biggest hurdle (after tobacco use) to improving cancer statistics in the U.S.

The effort, which includes TV ads on cable and network TV, print ads in a range of consumer publications, the organization's largest-ever Internet campaign, argues that quality, affordable health care for all Americans is a prerequisite for lowering cancer mortality. The documentary-style ads focus on challenges faced by the 47 million Americans do not have health insurance and others who have inadequate insurance when they are dealing with cancer.



One ad features "Kathy," who had no insurance when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Another ad tells the story of "Raina," who had insurance when she faced thyroid cancer but still faced financial debt that resulted in her medical bills being turned over to collection agencies.

The effort directs people to the society's Web site,, and encourages them to learn more about access to quality cancer care and to share their own stories. Internet advertising will include takeovers of portal home pages.

Consumers can also join the society's sister advocacy organization, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN), in its grassroots campaign to make health insurance a priority in the 2008 presidential election.

Greg Donaldson, national vice president of corporate communications for the Atlanta-based organization, says the demographic target is new for ACS. "Women 50 to 64 is the traditional demographic [for messages about] cancer screening. Women influentials in households are more likely to be involved in health-care decisions. But in this case we are talking 35-plus Americans registered to vote with a household income of $50,000 to $150,000," he says.

Donaldson says the Internet effort will include home page takeovers, sponsorships and viral banner ads. "Frankly, we have invested significantly in a call-to-action that is largely Web-driven." He said the media buy is in traditional outlets over a three-month period.

"From a mission-based perspective, we think it's mission critical and morally appropriate to resolve the problem of access to care, and we have concluded that it's the appropriate role of the ACS to raise the discourse. We aren't endorsing a candidate. We are deliberately non-partisan."

Donaldson says that discussions at ACS about whether to enter the fray were long and "dynamic. It has been building over the last 18 months to two years. But we understood that we could not achieve goals with regard to reduction of cancer mortality if the access question weren't resolved. It's uncharted waters for a charity."

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