Cancer Society Pays Its Way

Unhappy With PSAs, Nonprofit Ponies Up for Ad Campaign
ATLANTA–Moving away from its traditional reliance on public service announcements, the American Cancer Society has launched its first-ever paid national advertising campaign.
Created by T.G. Madison, here, the effort is themed, “Hope. Progress. Answers,” and tries to reposition the nonprofit organization as a public-health partner instead of a large, passive charity.
“The PSAs were running at 3 in the morning and completely missing the target audience,”
said ACS representative Eric Miller. “Our research, including a Gallup poll, made it clear the best thing we could do to get our message across was a paid advertising campaign.”
The ads build on the supposition that, in some way, we are all affected by cancer.
Four 30-second, soft-focus TV spots beckon family members, survivors, patients and volunteers to seek state-of-the-art information and support provided by the umbrella agency, which operates locations across the U.S. “No matter who you are, we can help” is the tagline.
“This is not a bleeding-heart, whimpering, simpering kind of campaign,” said T.G. Madison president Virgil Shutze. “It’s a very direct appeal to people on the grassroots level.”
The $12 million campaign, which will run in English and Spanish through August, brands the Atlanta-based ACS as the source for information, understanding and support for those affected by the disease.
In a field crowded with more than 200 service and research organizations featuring the word “cancer” in their names, positioning is critical for ACS outreach, as well as its fundraising efforts, said Shutze.
Beyond the commercials, airing on network and cable TV, radio, print and outdoor media messages buttress the effort.
T.G. Madison’s earlier advertising assignments for the ACS involved the charitable organization’s wills and annuities programs.
GCI Group, a unit of New York-based Grey Advertising, will handle public relations.
“Moving away from public ser- vice announcements is a pretty bold move,” said Shutze. “But some things definitely needed clarification. People think the American Cancer Society is a massive organization somewhere out there that does something. It was all sort of vague.”