October 20th, 2010

I Like It In My Status Update… Or  do I?

I’m all for witty wordplay and cyber-citizens amusing themselves with how far they’re able to push puns on their status updates, but the Facebook breast cancer campaign that recently went viral, is frankly, just annoying.
I guess we should be grateful that we aren’t using ads like Save the Boobs, (a blatant objectification of women’s breasts in the name of cancer awareness so bawdy YouTube makes you register online to prove you’re above 18). But really, is there value in reducing the issue of an illness that will afflict roughly 1.3 million women wordwide and take the lives of approximately 465,000 to a spate of clever sexual innuendos on Facebook?
In case you missed the memo, a viral campaign that took Facebook in the first two weeks of October, had women cryptically changing their status updates to “I like it on the couch” or “I like in on the washing machine” or “I like it on the kitchen counter/dining table/piano stool.”
What they’re actually talking about is where they like to put their bags when they get home. Of course. And somehow, like a similar, but less sexually suggestive campaign that came earlier, this was supposed to lead to a more heightened awareness of breast cancer. The question of course is: Did it? No. And I’m not the only one who thinks so.
Digital marketing expert Natasha Fernandez works on the Interactive team at Turner Entertainment Networks Asia (CNN and Cartoon Network). She says that while the campaign engaged thousands on Facebook and got a lot of press for very little cost, the campaign otherwise fell flat.
“It was a very clever way to pique the public’s interest but it seemed to be weak in follow-through,” she told AWARE. “If the objective was to encourage women to get breast screenings, then this information needed to be tied into the mechanics somehow. [Such as to] get users to post the breast cancer awareness URL.”

The campaign made no link (pun intended) to information on the disease, to encouraging regular breast-self-examinations, or to emphasising the importance of regular mammograms. That lack of educational value is where “I like it” gets very dislikeable.
With no educational, financial or humanitarian benefit, it’s hard to see what the “I like it” campaign is actually doing for breast cancer. Is generating buzz about breast cancer enough to move women to get examined? Is it possible to create an effective campaign that does not resort to sexual innuendos? Surely there is a way to engage the public on this important issue that doesn’t trivialise the experiences of those who have survived, died from, or witnessed cancer.

Why, our very own Breast Cancer Foundation of Singapore did this perfectly with their recent print ad campaign which asked: “Are you obsessed with the right things?” referring to a woman’s tendency to be more concerned about her appearance than her health. The ads, which included a bare-breasted woman covered in body-paint, conveyed this message creatively without objectifying the body or its nakedness.

Now that kind of campaign – clever in its delivery but austere in its message – that’s an approach that I like anywhere at all. – Tania De Rozario

For information about breast cancer, how to prevent it and how you can get involved, log onto the Breast Cancer Foundation at  www.bcf.org.sg


  1. Why, our very own Breast Cancer Foundation of Singapore did this perfectly with their recent print ad campaign which asked: “Are you obsessed with the right things?” referring to a woman’s tendency to be more concerned about her appearance than her health.

    I have to respectfully disagree. I felt that ad, too, ignored how women’s bodies are appropriate for the male gaze; it places the blame of this ‘obsession’ on women, rather than understanding that it is not a woman-oriented priority, but a socially mandated one.

  2. buiqes

    wednesday thats a really interesting point you raise about the to-be-looked-at-ness of the female body.

    i see the campaign as a nice way of portraying female nudity without objectifying it for its to-be-looked-at-ness!

    however… certainly something to consider that women seem to be blamed for society’s obsession with looks as our only value.

  3. Dana Lam

    Tania, thank you for this very articulate piece! And, I am with you totally. Thank you also to Wednesday for raising the question on whose gaze it is. I think “are you obsessed with the right things” is a fair enough question meant to trigger self-reflection. We may, indeed, come to realise that we have been much put upon to obsess with all the wrong things! The BCF campaign gets my vote for the best print ad in the last decade. Come to think of it, we should write and let them know!

  4. buiqes

    but does it matter whose gaze it is? whether its the male gaze or the female one, isn’t the point that we are obsessing, regardless of the reason? and that takes away from the important things such as, character-building, health, etc…

  5. TaniaDeRozario

    Hey there Wednesday :)

    That is an interesting POV and yes, I agree that appropriating one’s body for the male gaze is an ongoing issue. And that this gaze is one that is mandated and perpetuated by larger structures.

    However, I guess I saw the BCF campaign as one that highlights body-image-obsession as something that is not needed; not necessarily as something for which a woman is to blame.

    This of course, is subjective, depending on how one reacts to the text/image combination. But either way, your observation is a good one.