Loo roll dance aims to boost cancer screening take-up

NHSNHS England is launching a major new multichannel campaign urging more people to complete the bowel cancer screening test when sent one with after new figures reveal that a third of those eligible fail to do so.

The push, developed in partnership with M&C Saatchi London, is part of the NHS’ broader ambition to increase the proportion of all types of cancers being diagnosed early.

Those who are eligible for bowel cancer screening receive a Faecal Immunochemical Test (or FIT) kit in the post once every two years, which enables them to quickly and easily take a stool sample at home, and to send it to the NHS for testing.

The reasons for non-completion of the test can be numerous, from feeling it is unhygienic through to cultural taboos regarding taking a sample, as well as the incorrect assumption that if you do not have any symptoms, there is no need to test.

The key benefit of the test is that it can detect signs of cancer way before someone would ever notice any symptoms. Given that early-stage diagnosis of bowel cancer improves chances of survival by over 90%, it makes the test a life-saving opportunity.

To ensure more people complete the bowel cancer test when they receive one, M&C Saatchi has developed a TV spot, ‘Ribbon Dancer’, featuring a man in his 50s getting up in the morning before he heads downstairs and takes a loo roll from a bag by the door.

This is the moment inspiration strikes. He begins to unravel the paper before bursting into a graceful dance. Like a rhythmic gymnast, he uses the toilet paper as his ribbon. The display is a joyous celebration of life, choreographed to the tune of I’ve Got to be Me by Sammy Davis Jr.

The man’s dance takes him around the house and out into the garden before eventually leading him to the privacy of his bathroom. A series of quick cuts depict the completion of the bowel cancer screening kit, before a voiceover instructs the audience, “If you’re sent a bowel cancer screening kit, put it by the loo. Don’t put it off.”

Along with TV, the integrated push also includes activity across video-on-demand, search, social, online video and community radio. Media planning for the campaign is by Wavemaker, and media buying is by OmniGov.

Around 4.5 million people are invited to take part in the NHS bowel cancer screening programme each year.

NHS England deputy director, head of marketing and social media team Phil Bastable said: “Diagnosing bowel cancer at an early stage greatly improves a person’s chances of survival, which is why we want to ensure that as many people as possible complete the bowel cancer screening test when they’re sent one. This campaign by M&C Saatchi London addresses a serious, sensitive issue in an engaging and memorable way, showing how taking this quick, easy-to-use test really does have the power to save your life.”

M&C Saatchi London creative partner Guy Bradbury added: “We wanted to create a campaign that was distinctive, memorable and joyous, reminding people – through ribbon dance – that a simple screening test could save their lives. Or in the words of Sammy Davis Jnr, ‘Live, not merely survive’.”

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