Ad Review: Cancer Research UK “The Lump”

In a poignant new television campaign for Cancer Research UK busy shoppers are shown bustling about their everyday business oblivious to a rapidly growing lump that is penetrating the high-street. In the minute-long advert the lump swells from a football-like bulge to the size of an igloo. It is walked over, driven over and consciously skirted around by passers-by, noticed only by a dog who is dragged away by its owner without a second glance. The lump is, of course, an emphatic metaphor for malignant Cancer cysts, which are too frequently un-noticed or ignored. This message is driven home by the final voiceover which warns that “it’s easy to ignore something, especially when we’re busy, but spotting Cancer could save your life”.

Undoubtedly the advert is emotive, aiming to shock, inform and encourage viewers to be more aware of changes in their own body. To examine whether the advert could successfully ignite these emotions we asked a panel of 175 people to watch it and then record a video talking about how the advert made them feel.

The advert is certainly set to have an large impact upon viewers – nearly all the respondents who we surveyed thought the advert was a powerful and sobering reminder of how frequently Cancer is ignored in everyday life. Although frustrated by the complete lack of recognition the lump receives in the advert, a large number of the panel said they could empathise with the people in the advert. They talked about their own busy lives and how this often meant that health concerns and doctors appointments were compromised. However, a selection of respondents noted how being ‘busy’ and ‘not having time’ could also be used an excuses for those who want to deny the possibility that they may have a serious illness. Therefore, by the time people take action it might be too late. As in the advert, the lump becomes harder to ignore as it grows larger. As such, people are actively avoiding it.

“It makes me feel responsible for all the people who are walking around the lump. I just wanted to scream out at them” (Gem, 31, Downham Market)

“It’s not just about people who are too busy to notice the symptoms, it is also suggesting that people are in denial” (Ben,, 34, Alfreton)

Many admitted that they were scared or worried by the advert, as they had previously dismissed the importance of checking their bodies for symptoms on the presumption that Cancer would not effect them.

“It made me feel scared because I didn’t even realise or take notice of the lump at the start of the advert” (Jade, 18, Hastings)

“It scares me, particularly as I get older” (Simon, 47, Brighton)

However, evoking fear in viewers is an effective call to action. A high proportion of the panel claimed that they had taken some form of action as a result of the advert. Some people had conducted further research into the symptoms, others had checked their own bodies and a number of the respondents said they had or planned to show the advert to a friend or family member.

“It makes me wary and made me go to my wife and say “are you checking?” and “do you know what you’re looking for?”. I did actually look up more information about the symptoms of Cancer as a result of this video” (Mike, 53, Gillingham)

“This advert made me want to go and check my testicles for lumps immediately” (Paul, 40, Hayes)

Moreover, our research revealed that a large number of people in the UK are not fully aware of the different symptoms of Cancer. Many could name the most commonly associated symptoms, such as painless cysts and growing or discoloured melanomas, but even their understanding of these symptoms was vague.

“I don’t think that I know all the symptoms of Cancer and the advert has made me think I need to find out more” (Fil, 36, Chesterfield)

“I do consider myself to be quite clued up about the symptoms, but I do think I could know more” (Amanda, 35, Doncaster)

“I’m not fully aware of the symptoms, but I think it’s hard to be because there are so many difference types of Cancer” (Samantha, 28, Nottingham)

This suggests that, despite hundreds of national and international campaigns, there is still a lack of understanding about Cancer in the UK. Yes, people know what Cancer is and they want to raise money to help fund treatment. But, they don’t actually know what causes it or what the illness entails. Consequently, it is likely that many cases go undiagnosed until the illness fully manifests itself because people did not know what to look for.

The only real criticisms our panel gave were on this notion, as they felt that people were aware of lumps in general, but it was what these lumps were like or meant that they were unsure of.

“I think the advert needs to be more hard-hitting, so that people are encouraged to do their research thoroughly” (Imran, 41, Bolton)

“I know about lumps, but I don’t know about other symptoms, so it might be useful to have adverts which talk about other symptoms” (Lucy, 21, Leeds)

Thus, given the positive reception the advert received from the panel, the campaign would benefit from exploring and representing some of the lesser known symptoms of Cancer – the ones which are even more likely to be un-noticed or ignored. The “lump” could be the first in a series of adverts of a similar nature.

Nonetheless, the advert is undeniably effective and it serves it’s purpose. It makes people take a minute to stop and think and consider how aware they are of their own bodies and the symptoms of cancer. Moreover, the fact that the advert encouraged a considerable number of respondents to further research Cancer and the symptoms means that Cancer Research have succeeded in educating people through the advert. Ultimately, those who watched the advert were confident that they would not ignore a lump on their body any more than they’d ignore a large mound in the street.

“They’ve used a simple analogy for a really important reason. That in itself makes it memorable” (Lynne, 50, Pontefract)

Click below to watch the full advert: