Colorectal Cancer wants you to Give a Sh*t to a loved one this Valentine’s Day

Who: Colorectal Cancer Canada and Ogilvy Montreal, with Consulat for production, Apollo for music and sound, and National Public Relations.

What: “Give a Shit,” a new awareness campaign—highlighted by an actual “luxury gift box”—reminding people between 50 and 74 about the importance of getting screened for colorectal cancer.

When & Where: While the gift component made the campaign a natural fit for Valentine’s Day, the awareness program will continue to run through March—which is National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. It is being supported by online videos and influencer marketing.

Why: Colorectal cancer claims the life of 9,500 Canadians each year, and is the second deadliest form of cancer among men and the third deadliest among women. But it’s preventable, treatable and beatable if detected early enough. That’s where the campaign comes in.

How: The ads promote the “Give A Shit” box, a handsome gift box containing a replica of a fecal immunochemical test (FIT), which tests for blood in a person’s stool (a potential sign of colorectal cancer), and complementary items including a scented candle and a box of matches.

The ad resembles a stereotypical fragrance ad, complete with moody lighting, abstract imagery and a breathy voiceover. “What if we could know what is yet unknown, and contain it in a box?” it asks, complete with background whispers of “Give a shit for him” and “Give a shit for her” before finally revealing Colorectal Cancer Canada as the advertiser (see a making-of video here).

The ad drives viewers to, where they can donate a minimum of $25 to send the gift box to someone. “It’s showing that you care for someone you love, and what better time than Valentine’s Day,” says Alexandre Emond-Turcotte, executive creative director at Ogilvy Montreal. National PR is also distributing the boxes to select influencers.

About that name: Butts are inherently funny, so it’s no surprise that Colorectal Cancer has traditionally embraced humour to address the serious matter of colorectal cancer screening.

Previous efforts include 2018’s “Endangered Butts” campaign, which likened a person’s rear end to an endangered animal species, and 2010’s “Get Your Butt Seen” campaign featuring people sitting on photocopiers.

The organization’s decision to create a physical product is a new gambit, however, as is the decision to use stronger than usual language. There might be some people who complain about the use of the word “shit,” admits Emond-Turcotte, but it should also help the program stand out in a sea of fundraising initiatives.

“There are so many causes nowadays, and if you want to get heard you have to either speak louder… or you have to be more clever and impactful,” says Emond-Turcotte.

And we quote: “With our partners at Ogilvy, we found an innovative and provocative way to bring attention to the cause and to encourage Canadians to show that they care about the health of their loved ones without [the] embarrassment of talking about it.” —Barry D. Stein, president of Colorectal Cancer Canada.


Chris Powell