ASA bans cancer campaign for “sexual” imagery and asterisked “fuck”


The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has banned a recent ad which attempts to address the “rarely-discussed” experience of sex among cancer patients and survivors. It has ruled out all use of the ad in its current form stating it was likely to cause “serious and widespread offence” and was “inappropriate” for OOH display where it could be seen by children.

While the regulator acknowledged that the advertising agency BBH didn’t explicitly use the word “fuck”, reference to the expletive was enough. The original ad featured the phrase: “Cancer won’t be the last thing that f*cks me”, alongside intimate photography from Katie Burdon. BBH said the point was to “stop people in their tracks” in its original press release.

The ASA team, who sound like they’d be a fun guest at a party, said: “We noted the context in which the word appeared, and that the full text stated ‘Cancer won’t be the last thing that f*cks me’ which we considered viewers would understand to be an allusion to a colloquial term for sexual intercourse.”

The campaign had the full weight of the creative community behind it. Leading illustrators Antony Burrill, Marylou Faure, Kris Andrew Small, Kelly Anna, Telegramme, Rude, Adam Hayes and Biff were all commissioned to create interpretations of the core campaign concept for social media. Partizan’s Sophia Ray directed three supporting short films showing women talking openly about their experiences with cancer and their sexuality.



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