Advocacy is defined as a process by an individual or group which aims to influence decisions within political, economic and social systems or institutions. In the skin cancer and melanoma awareness world, advocacy occurs through various means. Groups and individuals lobby for tanning legislation. Those who have been touched by melanoma share their stories in social media. Other organizations organize fund-raisers and educational forums. Public Service Announcements from the Melanoma Research Alliance appear on TV or on YouTube. “Dear 16 Year Old Me” from the David Cornfield Melanoma Fund continues to be the benchmark for all PSAs. This is advocacy in its purest form.
And then there is advocacy with a kick.
While general advocacy oozes into the public consciousness, more aggressive advocacy gets right in your face. Sometimes the ads don’t necessarily scream at you, but they give you a cerebral slap and make you think about the issue just a bit more. A few months ago, there was presentation on YouTube called “How the Sun Sees You.”
This video showed people to looking at themselves through a UV camera which highlighted previously unseen skin damage. Many were shocked at what they saw, and then even more shocked when they saw how sunscreen can have such a dramatic positive effect. To date, that piece has received over 14.7 million views. It got people’s attention.
Then there is what I’d call extreme advocacy. A good example is the “Truth” campaign against tobacco use. Many of their ads depict deathly ill individuals or people who have been severely affected by smoking. They don’t tell you that smoking is hazardous to your health; they flat out tell you that it can kill you through an ugly and horrid death. The folks who advocate against underage drinking have also put out some effective ads. One spot shows a mother talking to and putting earrings on her daughter, who lies dead in her coffin. These are the types of ads that shock you…and get your attention.
The folks at Mollie’s Fund have recently released their own “extreme” ad. Called “Free Killer Tan,” it shows free tanning sessions being offered in the city on a cold wintry day. Promoters are walking the streets, holding signs and encouraging folks to warm up by getting a tan at “Vitamin Sun.” Some patrons decide to check it out. They enter the new tanning salon, complete with tanning products in their lobby. After a quick sign-up, they’re given a towel and goggles and told to proceed down the hall way through a curtain. What they find on the other side is a funeral parlor with a tanning bed instead of a coffin before pews of mourners. Atop the coffin is a photo of the potential tanner with the statement “In Loving Memory. You are gone but not forgotten”.
So far, it has received about 300,000 views, but there’s a lot of buzz in online magazines and publications. I suspect this ad will get many more views. It’s getting people’s attention.
But not all aggressive advocacy needs to be surrounded by promises of death. While many of us have followed traditional advocacy by placing “Melanoma Awareness” bumper stickers and magnets on our car, there’s one lady in California who has taken car accessorizing to a new level. Take a look:
Yes, Kristi Donahue has plastered her Toyota with melanoma messages and images from top to bottom. The car even displays dozens of photos of melanoma angels…those we’ve lost to the dreaded cancer. Her intent is to get the message out and it’s definitely working. She shared one experience of driving her car to take her son to the lake to feed the ducks and ended up giving an impromptu lesson on melanoma awareness to curious passers-by. Her message is being heard and her car is definitely getting attention!
I am very proud to be a part of melanoma advocacy. My blog and Facebook postings fall within more traditional advocacy, but these aggressive campaigns are inspiring. It shows me that we can go a little farther…dig a little deeper…and be encouraged that we are being heard. Whether we shock the public or turn their heads with a loudly decorated car, we’re starting to get people’s attention!