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Greenwashing Creativity Marketing

How to kill cancer with creativity

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By Natxo Díaz, Global head of craft

January 3, 2024 | 8 min read

VML Health’s Natxo Diaz comes into 2024 with an unorthodox belief that creativity can help consign cancer to the past. Here’s how.

Creativity

Credit: Dogs Without Borders

If all creativity is problem-solving, there’s never been a better time for our industry to train its guns on one of the biggest challenges of all: cancer.

Every year, more than 9 million people die from cancer. If current trends continue, that number could double by 2060. It doesn’t make sense. We’re making huge advances in medical science, yet mortality rates are moving in the wrong direction. We need to work harder to connect people with the solutions, which begs the question: could creativity kill cancer? Without a doubt, it could help bring the end game closer.

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Last year, the Biden Administration rebooted the Cancer Moonshot programme, announcing a new goal to halve cancer deaths by 2047. It’s a bold ambition to ‘end cancer as we know it.’ The mission should be a rallying call for creatives everywhere to join forces with science and rescue humanity. Because if we’re in it to make a difference, this is our moment to shine.

We often say that creativity can change the world. Well, 2023 showed it can certainly change cancer, spawning a glut of campaigns that are moving cancer care forward. These include:

  • Dogs Without Borders uses rescue dogs to sniff out cancers in remote populations where access to diagnostics is scarce. It’s helping address inequities and diagnose cancer sooner.

  • Inequality You Can’t Ignore calls out shocking racial disparities in breast cancer, driving earlier screening, diagnosis and treatment, and more compassionate, equitable care.

  • The Most Beautiful Sound reveals the inspirational sound of cancer cells being killed. It’s playing an important therapeutic role in patients’ recoveries from cancer, bringing hope and resilience to millions.

  • Buy My Cancer uses NFTs made from real living cancer cells to fund expensive CAR-T treatment for rare cancers. It’s saving lives.

  • New Normal, Same Cancer promotes the importance of prioritizing cancer care to ensure patients continue to receive the care they need. It’s facilitating early screening, early diagnosis and uninterrupted care.

These campaigns are disrupting cancer in the best ways imaginable, highlighting the power of creativity to drive change where it matters. But we’re only scratching the surface. With over 2,000 cancer drugs currently in development and new science emerging to help detect tumors earlier, the opportunity to turn cancer into a manageable disease is real. There’s so much more that creativity can do to help make it happen.

Statistically speaking, half of us will get cancer, so – as a creative community – it’s incumbent on us all to make the most of our craft to defeat a common enemy. Cancer is a global problem. We have a huge opportunity to be part of the solution.

If you’re up for the challenge, here are four key pointers for creativity that kills.

Don’t guess. Impactful creative requires understanding audiences deeply. When you’re working in cancer, you cannot taste the product or second-guess the experience. The only way to understand how cancer gets in the way of life is to speak to patients. If you only focus on the disease, you’ll miss the human element of who your audiences are and what they need. Sure, use data to guide you, but if you want to win hearts and minds, the best algorithm is human.

Look for the unknown. Ending cancer means ending it everywhere. If we’re going to do that, we need to find new ways of providing access to cancer care for all. That means walking down untrodden roads. If you’re scared while walking them, you’re probably heading in the right direction.

Participation is everything. Don’t just engage audiences; involve them. Creativity thrives in emotional spaces, but it hits harder when storytelling is real. Campaigns like The Cancer Currency – which helped get metastatic breast cancer included in the European Cancer Directive – succeeded because patients weren’t just integral to the creative, they were the creative. That’s powerful.

Collaborate obsessively. Creative doesn’t work in silos, it feeds on perspectives, insights and talents that bridge the entire ecosystem and beyond. To win it together, you have to be in it together.

Ultimately, we can kill cancer with creativity. If you want to make a difference in 2024, why not join in the fight?

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Natxo Diaz is the global head of craft VML Health.

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