TBWA & Shorty drive bowel cancer awareness

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TBWA\Auckland – with the key involvement of Shortland Street – has taken a revolutionary approach to a charity awareness campaign for Bowel Cancer New Zealand.

New Zealand has one of the world’s highest rates of bowel cancer, affecting more people than breast cancer and prostate cancer combined, yet awareness remains low.

TBWA observed that the fiercest advocates for educating people about the disease seem to be those with a loved one directly affected. So they set out to give all New Zealanders a friend with bowel cancer, via the country’s favourite TV soap.

From that insight, the campaign was born. TBWA worked with the producers of Shortland Street, who agreed that much-loved character Damo Johnson would contract bowel cancer.

Over a period of three weeks, Johnson displayed some of the signs and symptoms which people can be too embarrassed to talk about, before undergoing testing, diagnosis and surgery. Suddenly, every Kiwi had a friend with bowel cancer.

“Shortland Street generously gave us an unprecedented platform – this will help us save a lot of lives.”

The storyline was supported by a TVC reminding viewers that the disease could strike anyone, from any street. Bowel Cancer NZ also closely monitored commentary amongst the show’s highly engaged social media audience, joining in wherever the Facebook conversation turned to relevant issues like diagnosis, symptoms, treatment, and outlook.

ECD Christy Peacock, who developed the campaign, said: “it’s a sad fact of life that few of us are motivated to really support a health issue until it affects someone we care about. Working with such a well-loved character gave people a reason to care: it means a huge portion of the population now has a friend who has experienced bowel cancer.

“That provided great traction we can draw upon to educate Kiwis about this disease, which affects so many people, but which still flies under the radar.”

Bowel Cancer NZ general manager Rebekah Heal said: “Lack of awareness is one of the key challenges we face. Bowel cancer responds well to early treatment, with very high survival rates.

Shortland Street very generously gave us an unprecedented platform to encourage New Zealanders to talk about and recognise symptoms earlier on. This increased awareness will help us save a lot of lives.”


Client: Bowel Cancer New Zealand
General Manager: Rebekah Heal
Product: Bowel Cancer New Zealand
Campaign Title: BCNZ Shortland Street Campaign
Agency: TBWA Group NZ
ECD: Christy Peacock
Creatives: David Sylvester, Watchara Tansrikeat
Account Director: Aimee Knox
Account Manager: Chloe Lim
Agency Producer: Jodie Hari
Editor: Jim Hudson
South Pacific Pictures Senior Publicist: Raegen Houldridge

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