Do Billboards Influence Cancer Decisions?


I was driving to work the other morning and I noticed the following billboards. At first I didn’t pay a lot of attention, but the more I drove, the more I began to think about the messages.

The first billboards, in black, are a set of 3 corresponding ads, that when combined, add up to an overall story for one organization. I began to think about the question and answer.

Since I am an insider, how far would I drive? Well, I think the better question is what cancer diagnosis do I have? If it is breast or prostate, I would definitely travel 7 miles. If I had a glioblastoma, then I would be driving a lot further for treatment. I would travel across the country to make sure I go to a facility that has access to the latest clinical trials, that see many cases, and have more support services to care for my less common diagnosis.

As an outsider, I began to think about what makes their care advanced? Is it the people? Is it the technology? Is it the building? Who measured them? Since they are closer, does it also mean they are faster? Will they get me back to my normal routine faster than another cancer center?

What if I missed the first 2 billboards? Do I care that the cancer center is only 7 miles away?

The next billboard, “Pam is living cancer free” (in blue) makes me happy for Pam. (there is a picture of a young woman and her  dog)

Yet the “cancer free” part is so small that I didn’t notice it until I passed another billboard with the same tag line. At first I was wondering why I should be excited that Pam is living. Is it because she got a new dog? Is the dog named Pam?

In seeing the same billboard again, I realize that I am happy for Pam because she does not have cancer. I guess it is implied that she is cancer free because she went to that specific hospital.

The final billboard, in red, is from an Academic Medical Center that is almost 2 hours away from this region of the state. Their tag line, “Academic Medicine is not so far away” lets me know that if I keep driving, I will finally find Academic Medicine.

However, why do I care? Are you better? Do you have something special that the other 2 hospitals do not have? Why when I am not feeling well do I want to drive 2 hours to see you?

I could go on for a while with the various questions that come to my mind.

In each of the examples, I question how well the marketing teams and advertising agencies they hired actually know their community. Since I live, have worked, and am active in the community I would say that most of the messages miss the mark.

What is the call to action? Where is the so what? Why do I care? Why does it matter?

Although I do think about Pam.

I hope Pam was savvy.

I am hopeful Pam didn’t use any billboards to make her decision on where to go for cancer care.

As always, you can feel free to contact me at: CANCERGEEK@GMAIL.COM or follow me on twitter @cancergeek



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