“Lift your Skirt, Save a Life” Cervical Cancer Ad Divides Singapore

To remind Singaporeans about the free Pap smear screenings this month, the Singapore Cancer Society came out with a “Lift your skirt. Save a life” ad which sparked a lively discussion on whether it was creative, effective, or offensive.

The campaign featured local celebrities replicating the iconic pose of Marilyn Monroe in her film The Seven Year Itch. The campaign poster can be seen on bus shelters and train stations.

According to the Singapore Cancer Society, cervical cancer is a major health issue in the country:

Cervical Cancer ranks no. 9 among the cancers diagnosed in Singaporean women. Each year, 200 women are diagnosed with the disease and 70 of them die from it. It is a highly preventable and curable disease.

From 1 to 31 May 2013, all female Singaporeans and PR aged 25 – 69 years old, can enjoy FREE Pap smear screening at participating clinics island-wide.

At least 178 clinics are offering free Pap smear screenings this month. There were mixed reactions to the ad. Some praised it for being catchy while others thought it was a fashion or slimming ad. Others criticized it for being too sexual.

“Lift your skirt. Save a life” ad to promote awareness on cervical cancer. Image from Facebook page of the Singapore Cancer Society

“Lift your skirt. Save a life” ad to promote awareness on cervical cancer. Image from Facebook page of the Singapore Cancer Society

Everything Also Complain believes a simple reminder that there are free pap smear screenings would have been enough:

…you don’t need a controversial headline to grab the attention of Singaporean women. One four letter word starting with the letter F would do the trick: FREE, and that magical word that possesses Singaporeans into queuing long hours for stuff they don’t need is restrained here by small caps and boring font

a musliminah in NL also thinks the same way:

the idea behind the sexualised women was catering to the male gaze, suggesting voyeurism and sexual availability of women. This copywriter thinks that puns hardly work in ads, while others thought that it's not a good idea to sexualise ads which carry an important message.

What word would trigger the Singaporean mindset to pay attention to this ad? For the next campaign, I suggest the following headline:

FREE Pap Smears!

That oughta attract attention and get women to sign up for the free checkups. :)

Mr Brown supports the cause but is not happy with the campaign theme:

I am all for cervical cancer awareness but really? “Lift your skirt, save your life.”?

While you are at it, why not “Open your legs, save your life.”?

Or “Drop your panties, save your life.”?

Or “Upskirt your downturn, save your life.”?

In any case, despite the fracas, cancer is serious stuff and I shall provide the link to the info for free pap smear screenings in May

Writing for the Breakfast Network, Wesley Gunter defends the ad:

…if an ad like this CAN make more women go for PAP smears because it GRABS their attention and saves their lives, hasn’t it met its objectives?

The only thing that is “sad” about this whole affair is how this creative attempt was so readily shot down before it was given a chance to see if it actually works.

Linda Black, one of the models who participated in the ad, is proud over the success of the campaign:

I am so proud of the campaign, and I think it was beautifully shot and lovingly edited with women’s health issues at heart. I stand by that, and I will defend it and my decision to be a part of it.

That being said, the campaign is a major success – loads of people are talking about it, or have heard of it, and a kernel of truth has been planted: when was the last time you ladies have had your screening? Isn’t it marvelous that in this country, the powers that be care enough about you to give you your rightfully deserved screening for FREE?

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