Public Health England launches first smear test campaign as attendance hits 20-year low

The number of women attending cervical screening is at a 20-year low – a startling reality that has kick-started Public Health England (PHE) to launch the government's first-ever national screening campaign.

Each year, around 2,600 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer. Of that 2,600 - 690 women die from the disease. The role that cervical screening plays in reducing these statistics is crucial, as testing can identify potentially harmful cells before they become cancerous.

The campaign will encourage all women to get screened when invited and will particularly target the 25-34 age bracket, as the number of women attending cervical screening is lowest in this age group.

Created by M&C Saatchi, the ad features real people thanking their families and their friends (and even their dogs) for reminding them to attend their local cervical screening appointment.

To stress the preventative benefits of screening, the ad addresses the risk of cervical cancer and highlights how tests can stop it before it starts.

The campaign comprises creative across TV, video-on-demand, social media, digital channels, washroom posters, a national and regional PR launch, new brand and media partnerships, as well as information cascaded through GP surgeries, sexual health clinics, pharmacies and local councils.

Commenting on this year’s campaign, marketing director at PHE, Sheila Mitchell, CBE, said: “Cervical screening can stop cancer before it starts and saves thousands of lives each year. This new campaign has a crucial role to play in encouraging women to take up their invite, or book an appointment if they missed their last screening.

"Social platforms will be key to engaging our target younger audience, commercial partners will be adding scale and we will be working hand in hand with our local NHS partners.”

Mark Goodwin, joint deputy executive creative director of M&C Saatchi, said: "It’s not every day that we get the chance to create something that can directly save lives. By featuring real relationships, the work has the honesty and approachability needed to talk about cervical screening. It’s a huge responsibility and my thanks go to everyone involved in the whole campaign."

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