Ovarian Cancer Canada

Western Regional Blog – BC, YK, AB, NWT and Nunavut

She’s Got Some ladyballs

Lauren Richards is using insights from her personal experience to help direct Ovarian  Cancer  Canada’s first major national campaign.

By  Sonya Fatah

Lauren Richards discovered she had ovarian cancer quite by accident in July 2014. Richards, an industry veteran and currently the founder of media consultancy, Pollin8, went in for a round of routine checks when mild abdominal pain kept coming in waves. A combination of tests showed a diseased cyst but doctors were unable to tell how  far the cancer had progressed until they operated  on her and removed it. Eight weeks later Richards had a prognosis: she had early stage 2 ovarian cancer.

One of 2,800 Canadian women get diagnosed with that form of cancer each year, and since most of them are diagnosed at a later stage, it’s one of the most fatal of cancers, with a mortality rate that gives 50% to 62% of women five years of life expectancy by the time they are diagnosed.

What followed, in addition to chemotherapy, was an education on ovarian cancer, a little­known but deadly cancer that is poorly  funded,  little understood and not  part  of the conversation around cancer in Canada. Richards had been lucky. An early diagnosis meant she could beat the disease with appropriate treatment (as she has) but most people get  diagnosed when the cancer has  spread too  far.

“It’s not a diagnosis you want to hear,” says Richards looking back a year and a half ago. But today, she’s recovered (as  the picture, featured, attests). “I’m in remission, I’m expected to stay in   remission and I was one of the lucky ones  who got  diagnosed early,” she   says.

But the experience, which exposed Richards to how  far behind research and understanding of  ovarian cancer is, drew her to pull out her lady balls and find a way to heighten awareness and  support for the disease to enable researchers to develop a screening test. Two years prior to being diagnosed, Richards had been looking to give back to society and was searching for a charity to   help but  nothing quite got  her attention.


The OCC team was already  in conversation with Grey4Good, a division of Grey  Canada that works   on non­for­profit campaigns, to develop creative for a new, national campaign. The aim, says Karen  Cinq Mars, VP marketing at OCC, was to shift the soft conversation around disease, death and loss    to be about “people, ovaries and a whole lot of chutzpah.” Richards hopped on board to become the campaign’s media planner and strategist, providing insights on timing, space and leveraging her resources to ensure that the campaign’s message gets out  before Canadians  in the most effective way.

The multimedia campaign, which will debut  shortly, has  Richards armed with creative arsenal  running with taglines like: “I have the lady balls to talk about it. Do you?” The campaign offerings  include 15­, 30­ and 45­second video spots for TV, digital and cinema, multi­sized creative for    banner or page placement in newspapers, magazine creative, digital out of home and radio spots as well.

“When there’s a special need, this industry really comes to the table. People are there for you,” notes  Richards, who is on a mission to rally  more media sponsors  for the  campaign.

The campaign’s creative demonstrates a strategic shift for the small organization, which has traditionally  had taglines  and titles that draw  sympathy for sufferers.

A national walk that takes place in numerous cities on the same day every September is titled, “Walk for Her.” Now the organization is shifting   tactics.

“What we really wanted to do is change the conversation with a bolder approach,” says Cinq Mars.  An earlier campaign strategy took on a soft approach with a focus on mothers. But when four other major campaigns around mothers launched, the Grey team felt that OCC’s campaign would get drowned out  by  bigger media campaigns.

“We quickly realized that we had to take something that was very clinical into a more conversational place,” explains Andrew  Carty, VP, strategy and innovation at  Grey  Canada.  “We decided early  on that we should focus on not what ovaries are but what they do.” The team began exploring a    campaign around women as mothers and child­bearers but quickly discovered that that was a “well­ trotted space.”

“We needed something that was going to hit people over the head because this is a disease which has  been ignored,” he adds.

Indeed, there is no proper testing for ovarian cancer. Pap smears and ultrasounds don’t detect it. Because very  little is known about  it, patients and doctors  alike often dismiss  it.

Doctors don’t even know enough about it, explains Darlene Remlinger, VP, managing director, Grey Toronto, who also felt that the high rate of mortality associated with the disease – five Canadian woman die from it each year – combined with the lack of awareness  about  it, has  traditionally  left  the cause with few advocates.

The only way to change that conversation was to raise a slogan that could be heard above the din of other campaigns. ditching the “motherhood” focus of the campaign, the team decided to focus on strength rather than weakness, attaching the “lady balls” tagline to all  creative.

The shift was a big one for the organization that has previously worked on quieter, more traditional  and much smaller campaigns. But as  Cinq Mars  says OCC was ready  to do something   bigger.

Remlinger says that her team liked that “lady balls” had a kind of street credibility and urban usage that could be used to change up the conversation. “[And it goes ] beyond the metaphorical  association of what it means to have ‘lady balls’… it’s also functionally true – we do have gonads.”

The Lady Balls campaign will be live shortly and for Richards the experience is just what she was searching for when she was looking for a way to match her unique skill set    with a strong cause.

“Working on this campaign has been so good for my soul. Being able to apply my experience and  the relationships I have built through my career has been life changing. As I’ve reached out to the sales community and told them my story, and the facts about Ovarian cancer, their response has been nothing short  of amazing.”

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