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Provocative ad campaign: hipsters, cat lovers deserve to die

This campaign was so provocative (and successful) that people were physically tearing down the print posters in major metros.

hipsters deserve to die

hipsters deserve to die

Web traffic in three days matched the prior six months

The Lung Cancer Alliance USA, a non-profit organization, launched a provocative ad campaign featuring controversial declarations that hipsters, people with tattoos, smug people, cat lovers, and others “deserve to die.” In smaller print next to the sweeping declaration, the ads also proclaim, “…if they have lung cancer. Many people believe that if you have lung cancer you did something to deserve it. It sounds absurd, but it’s true. Lung cancer doesn’t discriminate and neither should you. Help put an end to the stigma and the disease.”

lung alliance ad campaign
lung alliance ad campaign
lung alliance ad campaign
lung alliance ad campaign
lung alliance ad campaign
lung alliance ad campaign

The ads were designed to spark conversation and break down the stigma surrounding lung cancer, as the Lung Cancer Alliance says that the biggest obstacle in lung cancer survival has been “the common misconception that those who suffer or die from lung cancer deserve their disease because they brought it upon themselves.” The campaign was featured in major metro areas like Dallas, New York, Chicago, DC, Boston, San Francisco, Philadelphia, and New Orleans.

Initially, the posters were placed round the cities on June 19th without the fine print, leading people to the website where a countdown clock ticked down the minutes until the “killer” was to be revealed, along with a message that said, “Every year over 160,000 lives are lost to a deadly disease. They didn’t ask for it, but many people seem to think they deserved it. This disease doesn’t discriminate. It affects almost all of us and it’s showing no signs of slowing down. So, what is the killer? You’ll find out soon enough.”

Since they unveiled that the killer is lung cancer, reactions have been mixed. “We relied on the extreme reactions to start the conversation about the absurdity that certain people may actually deserve to die,” said Denise Kohnke, Senior Vice President for Strategy at Laughlin Constable.

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Why the backlash was so intense

“Every ‘type’ we featured had a real, pre-existing bias… That’s why the backlash often was intense and personal,” Kohnke added. The campaign’s home page, NoOneDeservesToDie.org saw traffic levels in the first three days of the campaign that matched the prior six months, and according to Luerzer’s Archive, the campaign was the second highest trending topic on Yahoo and dozens of TV stations across America featured it.

In conjunction with the print marketing and website, a video campaign was created as well and run in movie theaters in 31 markets. As the timing coincided with the Aurora shootings, they were pulled.

[pl_video type=”youtube” id=”ST2MTUcl8EM”]

Kohnke said, “We’ve heard people say they tore down the signs because they were so offended, but on the flip-side, we’ve gotten emails, tweets, Facebook posts, etc. that simply said: thank you, it’s about time someone took this on. Comments in the thousands of posts were overwhelmingly positive, and/or understanding that we were trying to make a point. The ratio of positive to negative was approximately 80:20. This campaign was designed to be bold, brave, provocative and edgy to shake both the consciousness and subconscious minds of everyone in the country. It was a tall order.”

The non-profit says they “are thrilled with the campaign because it did what it was supposed to do: fuel conversation about a disease that has been so stigmatised that people are ashamed they have it and lawmakers choose not to appropriate funding to seek a cure for it.”

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Nonprofits often shy away from controversy, as do traditional businesses, but in this case, the backlash was well worth the goal of raising awareness, and it was executed brilliantly, proving that being provocative has merit when done well.

Written By

Marti Trewe reports on business and technology news, chasing his passion for helping entrepreneurs and small businesses to stay well informed in the fast paced 140-character world. Marti rarely sleeps and thrives on reader news tips, especially about startups and big moves in leadership.

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