When I think back to the summers of my youth, I remember hanging out at the swim club during the day and going to summer block buster movies at night. Of course, that was many years ago when I was oblivious to the dangers of the sun and before commercials were shown prior to the feature film. I would imagine that teenagers today spend their summers in much the same way. They may still be unaware of sun safety habits, but I’m sure they’re used to seeing larger-than-life advertising before the summer’s blockbuster. What better forum to capture the advertising attention of impressionable teens? Or for that matter…what about a melanoma awareness PSA?
This is exactly what’s going on in Australia now. In case you didn’t know, Australia and New Zealand sit underneath a huge hole in the ozone, so they get a far greater daily dosage of UV radiation than most. Of course, this means the Aussies have a far greater risk of skin cancer and melanoma. They take sun safety VERY seriously! Despite having temperatures over 100 degrees lately, the public is encouraged to still wear long-sleeved clothing. Tanning salons are starting to disappear as various districts pass anti-tanning bills, not just for minors, but everyone! Their national awareness campaigns are fantastic and commonplace. We could certainly learn from our friends down under on how to spread the word.
But getting back to the movie PSA, the commercial features interviews with friends and family of Wes Bonny…a normal young guy in Australia who happened to die of melanoma at the age of 26. The ad isn’t happy by any means…it’s eye opening. Audiences are reported as being shocked and saddened by the commercial, but it’s having a positive effect. According to the Cancer Institute of New South Wales, “65 percent of those who saw the ad, being shown throughout the summer, intended to increase their level of sun protection after watching it.” I know that “intending” is far different than “doing,” but these are encouraging results!
It’s time that an effective campaign was born here in the US. The Wes Bonny ad airs on Australian television as well, but the greatest impact seems to be at the theaters where the audience is totally focused on the action on-screen. Perhaps the Skin Cancer Foundation, AIM, or MRF will take similar action soon…at a theater near you.