'Old assumptions need to be constantly revisited' - Behind the Campaign with Manversation

Adam Hayes, associate creative director at Pegasus, discusses the agency's Manversation campaign against prostate cancer for Bayer.

What was the campaign, in a nutshell?

Manversation is a disease awareness campaign that aims to start a conversation about the symptoms of advanced prostate cancer, to save some of the 11,000 lives lost to the condition in the UK each year.

How did the idea come into being?

Men of a certain age are bad at talking about their feelings, and they’re notoriously poor at sharing concerns they may have about their health, right?

Wrong. In research conducted especially for the campaign, of the 3,000 men in the UK questioned, 82 per cent said they had discussed a health concern with a doctor in the past, and more than a quarter of them had done so in the past six months. Misconception defeated.

But the research also revealed that only one in six men was able to identify a single symptom linked to advanced prostate cancer.

So, the problem isn’t that men don’t talk about their health – it may just be they don’t know enough about their condition to comfortably talk about it. And when you consider there are 400,000 men in the UK living with or after prostate cancer, the importance of starting a conversation becomes clear.

Our creative intervention was to encourage friends and families of those diagnosed to reflect on their childhood experiences of asking big questions of their parents, to help break down barriers to what is a difficult thing to talk about. Our goal was to facilitate more post-diagnosis conversations and help our audience identify signs that someone’s condition is progressing quicker. In short, we wanted to enable more Manversations.

What ideas were rejected?

One insight that framed our early thinking was that a difficult topic is easier to broach when the situation is less formal or pressurised – when out walking, say, or chatting during a football match. This led us towards an approach in which we’d role-model various opportunities to have a Manversation, which could then be edited together in a way that made the conversation between individuals in each scene continue seamlessly into the next.

In the end, we opted for something that allowed us to articulate the barriers that might exist on both sides of the conversation more overtly.

Briefly describe the campaign planning and process

At Pegasus, we apply our in-house strategic planning model 'CHANGE' to every fully integrated campaign we produce, and Manversation was no different. Our campaign research gave our digital, insights and strategy team a great base from which to develop a behaviour-change diagnosis, out of which was born a suite of interventions which needed to be played out in our creative.

Our client, Bayer, was working in consultation with leading prostate cancer charities Orchid Fighting Male Cancer and Tackle Prostate Cancer. Having these partners helped shape the creative and gave us access to members of their organisations directly affected.

Manversation – Sons & Daughters from Pegasus on Vimeo.

What were the biggest challenges and how did you overcome them?

One of the biggest challenges was to create a campaign that moved the conversation on advanced prostate cancer forward in a way that had visual standout, while remaining sensitive to the topic. In collaboration with the client, we had creative control of every element – from scripting to storyboarding and the filming of the live-action elements for animation – to help us achieve this.

How did you measure the results?

The latest phase of Manversation launched last November with blanket news coverage that included 16 media interviews and two national TV hits, reaching a potential audience of more than 4.8 million, while providing two hours of airtime. Complete views of the hero film exceeded our KPI by 168 per cent, and the paid social click-through rate was an impressive 29 per cent.

But most importantly, the microsite saw over 22,500 sessions over the eight-week campaign, with more the 450 people downloading the discussion guide as a result of seeing the campaign, to support them in having those all-important conversations with the people they care about.

What's the biggest lesson you took away from the campaign?

That times change and old assumptions need to be constantly revisited. If informed, men do feel comfortable talking about prostate health. As we move into a ‘new normal’, our hope is that we continue to see our friends and family as a ready and willing support network, and not slip back into old habits as life gathers pace again.


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