Can Porn and Public Service Announcements Coexist?

The XX Factor
What Women Really Think
Jan. 10 2012 2:37 PM

British Public Service Announcement Uses Porn for a Good Cause

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Models pose for a 1994 charity campaign for testicular cancer treatment in the U.K.

Photo by Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images

I was middle aged before the Internet arrived, so I managed to make it to adulthood without being exposed to ubiquitous pornography. Coming from an era when TV spots for feminine hygiene spray were so circumspect it was hard to know what the dubious product was for, I’m still a little surprised to see 30-second spots interrupting The Good Wife and Modern Family with attractive happy couples discussing their deep satisfaction with Trojans, KY Jelly or Cialis.

Imagine the shock to my sensibilities after watching a public service announcement, a category of advertising known in the U.S. for its uninteresting low-budget wholesomeness, created for the British market that uses humor and some pretty raunchy porn to send its very important message.  

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Despite its noble intentions, I suspect my editors will find the video too vulgar to put in a box alongside this blog post. (You can click on it here, but be warned it is Not Safe for Work.)  Produced by the venerable ad agency J. Walter Thompson for the Male Cancer Awareness Campaign, a U.K. charity with an all-male constituency and a mission to "reduce embarrassment” and raise awareness of prostate, testicular and bowel cancer, the 70 second ad starring Maxim model Rhian is sure to raise more than awareness in its target population. The advertisement, titled “Rhian Touches Herself” instructs men (after affectively getting their attention), on the proper way to conduct a scrotal self-exam and urges those finding a “lump or swelling” to see a doctor immediately.

Testicular cancer, though relatively rare, usually strikes men between the ages of 15 and 45. In the United Kingdom, there are about 2,000 new cases a year and in the U.S. around 8,000 men are diagnosed annually. For reasons still unclear, the number of new cases has been increasing globally.  As with most cancers, the earlier it is caught, the better the prognosis. 

The Washington Post’s Robert Barnes, reported Monday on a court case against the FCC by Parents Television Council, a non-profit that monitors network television programming for inappropriate content.  PTC criticizes 2 Broke Girls, CBS’s new primetime hit comedy, for its abundant sexual jokes and repeated “breast and vagina references.”  By comparison, Great Britain, home to Masterpiece Theater, is historically more proper and reserved in its taste in art music and literature than our slightly cruder American culture. The scandals undermining the titled Crowleys in the British network ITV’s Downton Abbey— its second season now airing on U.S. shores—illustrate our U.K. counterparts’ deep history of civility and discretion when dealing with even the most mundane personal troubles.

On health mindfulness, however it seems the Brits make the Americans look stuffy. My congratulations to the cancer awareness group and its London ad agency JWT (which, I suspect, may have lowered its fee because ... the production was for such a good cause).

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