Review: NSW Cancer Council’s ‘It’s A Beautiful Day For Cancer’
Client: NSW Cancer Council
Title: ‘It’s A Beautiful Day For Cancer’
Agency: Naked Communications
Ah, the perils of the yoof-centric public service announcement. It’s an advertising genre whose attempts to create attitudinal and behavioural change can often be so earnest they come off as embarrassing, or so eager to be ‘down with the kids’ they come off as patronising.
But in this case, it’s vital to at least attempt to make that attitudinal change. Anyone going to the beach or a summer music festival will realise that an entire generation seems to be ignoring the basic precautions for spending time in the sun. Perhaps for people under 25, the ‘Slip, Slop, Slap’ message has been around so long it’s now background noise; after all, it dates from before they were born.
Sure, dying of skin cancer is not cool, but plenty of people don’t seem to think it will happen to them – and the ‘bronzed Aussie’ is a stereotype that dies hard, even in the face of so many alternative role models (the mainstreaming of the goth/vampire aesthetic and the ascendancy of pale, nerdy celebrity hipsters, to name just two).
Enter Al Bino, the pale-skinned rapper who came from nowhere in December last year to release his debut single, ‘It’s A Beautiful Day For Cancer’. It’s since been circulated widely on various video websites and online forums to a degree that should satisfy the Cancer Council that their message has ‘gone viral’. The three-and-a-half-minute song was also played on radio and made freely downloadable.
Naked are very good at guerrilla campaigns in social media, but caused controversy in January over a Witchery campaign that left many journalists with egg on their faces after having reported it as real. However, I don’t think anyone in the target audience for this ad actually thought Al Bino was a real rapper. Indeed, fans of Oz hip-hop quickly identified ‘Al Bino’ as Sydney MC Conrad Ball, aka Anecdote, who’s well known on the freestyle battle circuit.
It’s odd that the campaign picked a rapper known for his freestyling to portray such a tightly scripted character, but then Al Bino has been doing ten-minute appearances at music festivals through summer, so perhaps they were looking for someone who could think on his feet.
Written and produced by US indie rapper Lyrics Born (who sings the hook), the production values are much glossier than plenty of homegrown hip-hop, and the lyrics demonstrate some of Lyrics Born’s trademark playfulness. On the whole, it strikes the crucial funny, self-aware note that a song like this needs to avoid the naffness trap. One line that raised a smirk from me was, “While you were checking for hoes, I was checking for moles…”
But there are some clanging Americanisms, the greatest of which is the American pronunciation of the character’s name – Aussies just don’t say “Al Buy-no”. The song was also clearly written to be performed in an American accent, which is gratingly obvious at times. It’s odd to hear an Aussie voice saying “glasses” with a short ‘a’ in order to make it rhyme with “molasses”; on the other hand, “cancerous” simply doesn’t work with “casket” (pronounced “car-sket”), which would’ve been a cute eye-rhyme in an American voice.
It’s definitely catchy – especially the “for cairn-sah” bit in the chorus – but there’s been some criticism online that the lyrics are limp, that the song is insensitive to people whose friends or relatives have died of skin cancer, or is ‘gross’ because of the singing melanoma. Equally, others have said it’s funny, and hailed it as a necessary wake-up call. You really can’t win in this marketing category.
Ultimately, this is a competent concept, competently executed. It makes its point, but never tips over into the extreme annoyance or awesomeness that let ideas leap from novelty to pop-culture meme. As one user on the Stealth magazine forum aptly puts it, “It’s like the kind of song that they’d make on Rove as a joke.”
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