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31 May 2018

The black and white truth about breast health ads

by Alice May

Susan G Komen Foundation: “Know Your Girls” - 67s

This PSA for breast cancer charity Susan G Komen is aimed exclusively at African-American women. While black women are more likely to develop the disease at a younger age than white women, and more likely to develop aggressive forms of it when older, they're culturally far more reluctant to discuss their concerns with family, friends, or even medical professionals.

So they face a hugely increased danger... and that's before we even consider the fact that most breast health campaigns focus almost entirely on the experience of white women; effectively shutting the rest out.

Bearing this in mind, creative agency Translation wanted to come up with a spot that would resonate fully with black women. And, thanks to in-depth research by the SGK Foundation and the Ad Council about the aspects of life that are most important to them, they came up with a concept based on the strong sense of sisterhood and support familiar to women from an African-American background.

With a VO by actress Vanessa Bell Calloway - herself a breast cancer survivor - the ad shows a woman at key points in her life, surrounded by the female friends and family members she knows like the back of her hand.

These are her girls; always there for her. But also present are 'her girls' - her breasts: the two companions who have been there since she hit puberty and who have never, ever left her for a single night... yet she knows them least of all. Isn't it time she did?

The smooth R&B track by Alicia Keys - fittingly titled 'You Don't Know My Name' - is not the type of number we'd expect to hear for a communication such as this - but then, of course, that's because we're used to the style and vernacular of 'white' charity ads.

And while we can't speak for African-American women directly, it strikes us that this piece is really smart; flagging up all the positives of mutual female support and eliciting the notion that you as a woman should be there in turn for your very own 'girls'.

It's not a scare-mongering, graphic message - it simply plays on the good things you want to keep in your life and lets you know there's a way to help keep them there.

Director: A V Rockwell ♀
Voiceover: Vanessa Bell Calloway
Music: Alicia Keys - You Don't Know My Name

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