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“When Betty Ford came out with her breast cancer diagnosis, no one was talking about breasts except in titillating sexy conversations,” Jimenez said. “We need to get over this fear of talking about the body.”
Jimenez and Walker are ardent advocates of women’s listening to their bodies and looking for changes, even if subtle.
“Because a lot of us are really busy, we don’t want to slow down long enough to pay attention to our bodies,” Jimenez said.
That’s where Ad 2 Tampa Bay’s public service campaign came along in 2012. The organization of young advertising professionals chose Ovacome as its 2012/2013 public service client out of a stack of applications from other non-profits.
The Ovacome campaign was a decidedly harder challenge from the get-go, said Ad 2 Public Service Director Hunter Taylor and Creative Director Allyson Simms.
“There were other applicants with easier, perfectly packaged and bundled campaigns,” Simms said. “But these women were doing all this hard work after working 9-5 jobs, going through chemotherapy, and then coming together to do this. We knew Ovacome was the right decision.”
Branding a campaign from almost nothing for a disease that’s called the “silent killer” was no easy task.
“It’s like, ‘Be aware of this cancer that is dangerous and deadly but there is no test, no real screening process,’” Taylor said. “Eventually we learned there are symptoms, but they’re subtle. You have to be aware of your body. Like Kim [Snyder, president of Ovacome] did, you have to be your own healthcare advocate. That’s why we chose that tagline.”
The tagline? “Trust your gut.”
The idea of incorporating a lotus flower into the branding came to Simms after lengthy conversations with the Ovacome women.
“They all have this fighter mentality, and despite being in this room together for an ugly reason, something beautiful happened,” Simms said. “The lotus flower is something beautiful that grows out of the mud and muck. It comes up to bask its beautiful petals in the sun. Cancer is the mud and muck, but when these women got together, they just bloomed.”
Advertising, branding, and a good campaign can make the difference in whether or not a message gets out to the public. When it comes to illnesses like gynecological cancer, it’s literally a matter of life or death. So Taylor and Simms decided to tackle the difficult subject head on with an in-your-face campaign featuring lines like “Painful sex can save lives” and “Belly bloat is cause for celebration.”
For visuals, Ad2 decided they wanted to focus on the women of Ovacome themselves.
“We don’t have boobies like breast cancer does,” Taylor said. “You can’t show it because it’s internal. Luckily, we had these brave women who wanted to raise awareness and were willing participants.”
Despite the fact that none of these women particularly wanted to plaster their faces and stories on billboards across Tampa Bay (HART and Clear Channel donated advertising space), Walker, Jimenez and others didn’t hesitate.
“The Trust Your Gut campaign couldn’t be more important,” Jimenez said. “It’s about women and doctors having open and direct conversations about sexual activity and what women are experiencing. We’re over being shy. We’re ready to get sassy.”
The campaign ran on billboards locally, in newspapers, and on the back of Hillsborough city buses. Unfortunately for Ovacome, Taylor and Simms, those donating the advertising space found the “painful sex” and “constipation” advertisements too taboo for their audience.
Alternate versions of the ad ran, but Simms and Taylor admit it was disappointing.
“It was heartbreaking,” Simms said. “But we realized even Tampa wasn’t ready for the message yet.”
To that point, Jimenez and Walker both reference the 2011 debacle on the floor of the Florida House of Representatives when Orlando Democrat Scott Randolph got in trouble for saying “uterus” and was instructed by GOP leadership not to “discuss body parts on the house floor in the future.”
“We have fewer voices because the mortality rate is so high,” Jimenez said. “But part of the challenge is talking about parts of the body that are still considered to be taboo.”
Age is part of the equation, too.
Though the median age for women’s diagnoses is 63, Walker warned, “I was 39. Another woman in our group was 17. It can hit any woman at any age.”
“People are starting to realize this isn’t just an older women’s post-menopausal disease. Younger women are affected by it, too,” Jimenez said.
And even women who’ve had complete hysterectomies are still at risk. “It’s rare but it does happen,” Walker said. “I’ve known three women in my circle with it. It’s not that rare.”
This summer, nine of Tampa’s Ovacome women headed to Washington D.C. for a national conference on the issue, and visited representatives in the Capitol to ask that funding be protected and increased wherever possible. Current federal funding for ovarian cancer research is around $20 million, out of the nearly $4.9 billion allotted for all cancer research. And budget cuts removed an additional $293 million from that number this year.
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