Breast cancer photo project raises awareness

After a friend was diagnosed with breast cancer, fashion photographer David Jay shot what he calls "a beautiful, disturbing portrait" that unflinchingly showed the scar across her bare chest.

Client: The Scar Project (New York)

Agency: Wunderlich Inc (New York)

Campaign: The Scar Project

Budget: $4,000

Duration: September 27 - October 20

After a close friend was diagnosed with breast cancer at 29-years-old, fashion photographer David Jay shot what he calls “a beautiful, disturbing portrait” that unflinchingly showed the scar across her bare chest. It was the first what would become The Scar Project, a series of nearly 100 such portraits of young breast cancer survivors.

“I wasn't aware that young women in their twenties were getting breast cancer,” Jay said. “I had to get the word out.”

Jay hired Wunderlich to create a campaign around the portraits to raise awareness of the reality of breast cancer among young women and benefit various cancer charities. The exhibit premiered at New York's Openhouse Gallery October 14-17 (during Breast Cancer Awareness Month). Opening night ticket sales benefited Livestrong.

Strategy:

“Our tagline is: ‘Breast cancer is not a pink ribbon,'” Jay says. “[The Scar Project provides an] honest, raw perspective on what breast cancer really is.”

Media relations, social media outreach, and thescarproject.org were used to drive messaging.

Tactics

General consumer, fashion, and select healthcare outlets and blogs were targeted. Wunderlich founder and president Gwen Wunderlich says pitching the harsh reality of early onset breast cancer proved challenging.

“We had to have hard talks with editors to explain why they wanted to [cover] this,” she explains. “They give readers pink ribbons, but they don't want them to see what it's really about. Many reporters wanted to run the photos, but higher- ups shut them down.”

Outreach drove audiences to the site, where they could learn more and buy tickets to the opening, and to Facebook, which includes campaign updates, media coverage, and a tab for fans to discuss issues. Several thousand three-by-four foot posters of one of the images with the tagline and exhibition details were hung around New York City.

About 20 of the women photographed attended the opening and talked to people about their experience.

Results

Wunderlich reports $20,000 was raised for Livestrong. About 2,500 total attended the exhibit. Jay couldn't provide website traffic, but the Facebook page currently has more than 15,000 fans.

The campaign garnered 52 placements in outlets such as Newsday, Daily Candy, and The New York Times. St. Louis Post Dispatch and AOL were among outlets that ran the photos.

Future

The next exhibit will be held in Boston this March. Jay will continue working with Wunderlich and expects The Scar Project to travel internationally for the next couple of years.

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