Cynical health marketing, a victims story

Following on from my previous post, about the commercialisation of charities, I found myself in a very interesting debate on Twitter, and I was joined by some considerably knowledgeable and experienced people. During that, I was made aware of the below post, by Stephanie Butland. Stephanie is a blogger and writer with her own very informative website.
This experience, captured exactly the type of problem that is now unfortunately becoming so common. The pursuit of cash, is appearing to dominate the agendas of large organisations, with absolutely no regard for the individual. Cynical marketing campaigns, to obtain your personal details to enter onto a database to attack you with eternal begging letters and phone calls.
With the amount of interest that both Stephanie and myself have received since we published our posts, it seems like this is becoming a bigger problem than we imagined.I found Stephanie’s account of her experience, very powerful, and she has kindly agreed to let me share the below piece with you.

“Breakthrough Breast Cancer, I am ashamed of you, and I offer you some advice.”

If I wasn’t poorly and stuffing myself with antibiotics, tea and House re-runs, I wouldn’t have taken the call, so I wouldn’t have known what an idiot I made of myself when I commended Breakthrough Breast Cancer’s TLC guide to you on Monday.
You might remember that I said:

There’s a guide that Breakthrough Breast Cancer have brought out – I think it’s very useful, though it’s a great shame they haven’t made the information easier to get hold of, and I think having to trade your mobile phone number to get it is a bit much.

So, I’m sitting here with my tea and my knitting and my House re-run (thinking it could be worse, I could be a nun with a copper allergy), and the phone rings, and it’s a very nice man from Breakthrough Breast Cancer who would like to take my address so he can send me my TLC guide. I give it to him. He offers to text me every month to remind me to check my breasts, which I decline – I think my thrice-daily-dressing-shower-undressing check routine is probably sufficient, and that’s only the times I realise I’m doing it – but I think is quite a good idea.
And then he tells me about the breakthroughs that are happening in cancer research, and asks whether I have any experience of breast cancer. I say I’m a survivor. (I know, I know, but I’m not really thriving this week. Tomorrow will be better.) He says – and I have a horrible suspicion of where this is going by now, but I hope I am wrong – that that’s really terrible, but it’s good that I’m OK, and I of all people must understand how important it is to fund research, and maybe I’d like to donate £10 per month. I say, I agree that there’s a need for research, absolutely, but I have all my fundraising and donations pretty well sorted.
He says, that’s fantastic, and proceeds to tell me a story about a woman diagnosed with breast cancer when 34 and pregnant who was ‘terrified’, had to have her baby delivered early, but fortunately all was well – phew! – so maybe if I couldn’t do £10 per month, £6 per month would be manageable?
I know times are hard. I know charities are fighting for an ever smaller pool of money. I know that cancer research needs money. I know that, from a marketing point of view, telling stories works better than flinging statistics around.
Breakthrough Breast Cancer, two points to note.

1. This campaign is dishonest. If you want to make people aware of the hidden signs of breast cancer, do it. If you want to ask them for money, do it. Don’t use the offer of life-saving information as a way to get people’s phone numbers.
2. This campaign is cynical. Of course the people who want the guide to finding breast cancer consider themselves vulnerable to breast cancer. You’ve collected the phone numbers of people who think they might have, or get, a cancer, and you’re calling them with requests for money.
I’m going to email a link to this post to Breakthrough Breast Cancer, to ‘Lorraine’ (the TV show that’s sponsoring the campaign), and splash it all over Facebook and Twitter. If you agree that this kind of thing isn’t on, please feel free to do the same. You can email Breakthrough Breast Cancer here.) If you think it’s fair enough, well, fair enough

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