‘Threatening’ CRUK mailer banned

A Cancer Research UK mailing campaign – devised by Rapp – has been banned after the ad watchdog adjudged that it used a threatening tone likely to cause serious distress to those who received it.
Delivered in a plain brown envelope, the unaddressed mailing carried the phrase “It Doesn’t Matter To Me Who YOU ARE” – in an old typewriter-style font – as a way of grabbing hold of recipients’ attention.
But for a number of consumers who contacted the Advertising Standards Authority, the envelope looked more like a letter you may get from a blackmailer or debt collector rather than one from the UK’s leading cancer charity.
Inside the envelope, there was a letter written by ‘cancer’, which carried through the tone of the envelope.
It stated: “Everyone knows me. And they know the devastation I cause. I didn’t think it could happen to me. That’s what a lot of people say. The truth is it happens to most of more than one in three. For those people, their friends and families, things won’t ever be the same again. And it’s all down to me. I AM CANCER.”
But the ASA took a dim view of the campaign, especially as it believed the plain brown envelope did not even look like marketing material, as the CRUK logo was only visible on the back.
The watchdog said: “When delivered directly to recipients own homes, the text was likely to be received as a threatening message and recipients were likely to open the envelope without paying attention to any small print on the back.”
The ASA also considered that the content of the letter was likely to cause serious distress to those who had been directly or indirectly affected by cancer and other vulnerable members of the public.
It ruled that the ad must not appear again in its current form, and warned CRUK to ensure future ads did not cause serious distress and were clearly identifiable as marketing material.
The ruling follows a recent report by the Charity Commission, which showed more than two-thirds (67%) of the public are concerned about the methods used by charities to fundraise. Negative messages and images were less favoured by potential donors; they preferred to see a positive image that demonstrated the good their donation could do.

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