The MD Anderson 2015 Cancer advertising campaign is a take-no-prisoners, in-your-face declaration that cancer is on the run and they’re hell bent to “make cancer history.” The Ads reprise a similar Cancer Research UK “Cancer, we’re Coming to Get You” UK campaign (2013) and UK Race for Life (2015) Ad.
In the Anderson ads we’re presented with people like us telling us what cancer has taken, or tried to take from them; their hair, their husbands, their grandmothers, their fathers and… even them.
The power of the Ads is the performance.
The menacing gaze of a woman,
“Cancer, did you really think we’d do nothing.”
The language of warfare,
“Did you think you’d take our mothers, our loves, the left hand for the right. Well hell hath no fury like a woman in pink. And we’ll not lie down, not without a fight.”
The taunt of the confident,
“I laugh at your stupid face”
The zeal of religion met by the stronger-than-blood zeal of buddies in the trenches.
“You mess with her [child], you mess with all of us.”
The narrative or frame of these Ads is that we’ve arrived at a time when patients now control what’s going to happen to them and their cancer.
Humans process much information by using powerful cognitive scripts or narratives Lakoff, and we often misinterpret or even dismiss messages that do not match a mental schema we have.
So saying that, if your mental script cancer is “something I will fight with every inch of my being…” the Anderson Ads likely resonate with you, support and reinforce you and your thinking – empowering.
But if you have a very different mental script for cancer ( insert any health condition you want here) – any many do – these ads can yield – “I don’t have the strength and nobility of these people in the ads.” “I am lacking, I am flawed, not worthy of healing because I’m not facing this as the noble warrior.”
And while I too have been known to answer rallying cries and even recite an occasional self-empowerment mantra, shouldn’t these Ads come with a warning label?