The Lump: Cancer Research UK Campaign 2015

“Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” Sun Tzu, the Art of War.

I searched the depths of the internet for a great public relations campaign, and came up with a public relations stunt that was done in the UK during 2015 for Cancer Research UK.  Here it is below:

Give it a watch! I think that what makes this campaign amazing is that it was done without words.  It is entirely strategy and tactics in action.  In the video, Cancer Research UK staged a public relations stunt.  They found a busy street, and made a slowly growing lump in the pavement.  Surprisingly, people ignored it and did not question it, even when it became a massive bump!  This campaign communicated how  easy it is to ignore your health until it it too late.  It reminds people of the importance of taking care of their health, particularly when it comes to cancer, since some types of cancer are survivable if detected early.

I think that this campaign speaks to the fact that people too often ignore the signs due to fear.  Instead they hope that the bad thing will just go away.  Unfortunately, this sometimes prevents them from getting a troubling lump checked out, or they neglect checking for troubling lumps in the first place, in case one appears.  This campaign communicates the importance of taking care of your health by being aware of the early signs of cancer, even when it is scary.  It also reminds people of the possibility of donating money to cancer research, and brings awareness to their organization as well as the general issue of cancer and cancer research.

How did they do it? Strategies and Tactics!

When public relations professionals create campaigns, they use strategies and tactics.  Strategies are your ‘big ideas’.  A strategy is the  problem that you are trying to solve, or the thing that you are trying to accomplish.   A tactic is a plan for exactly how you are going to carry out your idea, or how you are going to solve your problem.

I think that the strategy for the Cancer Research UK campaign, was to make people more aware of their own organization, to make people more aware of cancer in general, and to remind people to be proactive about checking for early signs of cancer.  I think the campaign succeeded because it made it obvious how easy it is to ignore a lump! The tactic was to communicate this strategy using a public relations stunt.  The professionals behind this campaign created a growing lump in the middle of the pavement on a busy street in the UK to see how people would respond.  Amazingly, people did not notice the lump until it grew into a big bump!

No one likes paying attention to lumps because potentially cancerous lumps are scary, and we would rather pretend that they don’t exist.  Don’t forget to check!


A Cultivation of Comments

“I agree, it is a very compelling campaign! I’m glad I found this site actually, because I want to learn more about effective public relations campaigns, and how they work.  We are learning about strategy and tactic at university.  I think that the strategy and tactic here was excellent for this particular campaign.  I will look at other ones and try to figure out their strategy and tactic also! Do you think that companies and organizations are going to continue to use these types of campaigns to avoid making people annoyed at being ‘advertised at’, or are they just too expensive and time consuming? ”

(In response to Craig Knowles article on, April 4, 2015)

“I agree, the PR world is changing quickly, and this is a good summary of the factors involved!! I think that content marketing and social media are hugely important because people no longer want to be advertised at, they want to be engaged with and included in the conversation. The things from this article are exactly what we are learning in class: that storytelling, social media, and writing are so important. Also, measurement is important and has reached a new level of sophistication. I dislike being called a Millennial though. I think that it is divisive to categorize generations too much. ”

(In response to an article from PR Daily entitled 4 Ways PR Pros can Catch up with Social Media Trends, March 23, 2015.)

“I think that you are right about user experience becoming increasingly important, and I am excited to see where user experience takes us in the future. As the old marketing and public relations adage goes, you must know your audience. Reaching people is about empathy because connection and experience are about emotions. Things are now designed to create a symbiotic relationship between the user and the product in such a way that it is seamless.
Another user experience engineer was Frank Bunker Gilbreth Jr, an engineer who studied time and motion back in the 1950’s. His story inspired the film Cheaper by the Dozen. Frank and his wife were responsible for the design of the modern kitchen, and they designed it for optimal user experience. Their kitchen design is far more user friendly than other designs, which is why everyone seems to hate galley kitchens.”

(In responce to an article from Fast Company entitled: “A Brief History of User Experience Design”.  March 15th, 2015, Ali Rushdan Tariq)

“Thanks for the interesting history lesson about the evolution of language and writing!  I agree with you, an indent is distracting and old fashioned.   I much prefer the cleaner look of the flush paragraphs because I am a fan of simplicity and clean ascetics.    However, I am ready for a new type face to become ‘in vogue’ as the current popular one is just a bit too stark for me.  Also I dislike the trend of people using dashes instead of semi colons.”

(In response to an article from Pr Daily entitled: “Why don’t Writers Indent Paragraphs Anymore?”  March 3rd, Claire Celsi.)