The Sun newspaper’s offices, some months ago:
“Right, so anyone got any new campaign ideas,” says Boss, “and don’t give me any bullshit about 'Our Lads' or foreigners. We’ve done that! Steve, what you got?”
“Erm, well, I dunno whether it’d work but I was thinking…what about a Page Three breast cancer campaign?”
The room falls silent. The assembled group of young men look confused. The boss turns pale, then red, then pale again. A sweat forms on his forehead and his eyes begin to brim with tears.
“Oh my God,” says Boss, “if we get a breast cancer charity involved, all those ugly feminist slags won’t have a hairy, fucking leg to stand on! We get to keep Page Three and look like we care. Christ, I’m getting hard just thinking about it. Only problem is, a charity…”
“Well, actually,” says Steve, “there’s this charity…it’s called CoppaFeel!”
The boss rises slowly, walks towards Steve and plants a full, passionate kiss on his lips.
This isn’t a transcript, by the way, just my notion that this is how The Sun managed to pull off one of its most genius moves to date.
If you hadn’t heard, The super soaraway Sun’s teamed up with a breast cancer organisation called CoppaFeel! for a six-month campaign aimed at sexy women in their 20s. Alright, not just sexy women, although the front page photo of a semi-nude glamour girl propping up the words breast cancer, might give that impression, but to all women. The weekly feature, Check 'em Tuesdays, asks young women to examine themselves (and not in a titilating way).
Presumably, The Sun couldn't believe its luck when it found the new charity, CoppaFeel! Launched by Kris Hallenga who discovered that she had breast cancer in 2009 at the age of 23. No one could (or would) argue with her credentials, or the fact that if the Sun campaign saves a life, even one, then it's all good, would they?
Well, sort of, but you can’t help feeling that the Sun’s come out of this with a better deal. CoppaFeel! might've had a shedload of press coverage, but it’s The Sun which still manages to have its cake and it eat it by combining tits, celebrities and, of course, charity - the key to all this.
People have been trying to get rid of Page Three since it started, back in 1970, but recent attempts have been taken seriously - so-much-so that The Irish edition of the Sun stopped going topless last year. Campaigns like Lucy-Anne Holmes', No More Page Three have also been gathering momentum and if she had her way, the UK edition of the Sun would go the same way. So, what better way to justify Page Three's existence than with a nice, juicy cancer campaign? Better still, a nice, juicy cancer campaign with most of the reality taken out.
Thankfully, I don’t have any personal experience but I know people who do and breast cancer’s no fun. It’s not sexy or cheeky, which is what tagging it on to Page Three makes it. The whole campaign is the equivalent of playing a funeral march on a kazoo – nice try, but it trivialises the matter.
Of its six million readers, half are women, says Sun editor David Dinsmore, which makes their argument that this is all aimed at women even more surreal. If I were a Sun-reading female, Page Three probably isn't the first place I'd turn to.
That said, I think we could learn a lot from the Check 'em Tuesday campaign. Not from a charity point of view, but from a calculated, cycnical PR standpoint, it's brilliant.