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Gender-segregated cancer CSR in Bayer’s Pinterest campaign

Gender-segregated cancer CSR in Bayer’s Pinterest campaign

Recently, on Facebook, I was served this ad:


Following it (and costing them a click) I came to this landing page for Bayer’s One-A-Day vitamin brand:


The site promises to give $10 the Breast Cancer Society of Canada every time a user pins the campaign brand to their Pinterest board (up to $30,000 CDN).

This is not a new strategy. Many companies simply channel part of their corporate social responsibility (CSR) budget into “buying” likes, fans or shares on social media. But with women making up some 80% of Pinners, Pinterest is clearly the right channel for this campaign.

Sure, the brand could have just given that thirty grand to the charity, but then they wouldn’t have their brand pinking up Pinterest boards across Canada.

While the page above was my landing from Facebook, further navigation brings up a different page:


Ah yes, the bare breasts. I was wondering when they would make an appearance.

But there’s another aspect of this campaign that I thought was worth looking at.

On the breast cancer campaign site, there is a small link to a prostate cancer campaign:


Same template, but blue. And instead of breasts, prostate health is symbolized by… a tattoo? It also features a tie, which is fundraising participant Prostate Cancer Canada‘s symbol.

Granted, nobody really wants to look at a prostate gland (it’s in the bum, don’t you know) but the could have easily used a pair of underpants or something, like The Underwear Affair does. Or just be bold and talk about the rear,  like “Get your butt seen” by the Colorectal Cancer Association of Canada.

(Looking at the campaign’s Pinterest board, I see that there is indeed a version of the men’s campaign with underpants.)

Let’s compare the images.

For women:


Topless, faceless woman. Peek-a-boo cleavage. Pink ribbon. Pretty much hits all the clichés of coyly sexualizing breast cancer cause marketing.

Now, for the lads:


Faceless, topless man. Tattoo on manly arm. Tie. No chest shown, and nothing anywhere near his prostate.

It is true that you need to understand your target audience, and speak to them in their own language. But rarely do we get a chance to see two identical campaigns, targeted to the perceived sensibilities of both sexes. (“Women like to see sexy women, so they can imagine themselves being looked at!” … “Men want to see strong men who they can identify with!”)

It’s just a little campaign, for two good causes. But it tells us a lot about gender stereotyping, and how easily we accept it in the name of advertising.

Bayer (on Pinterest)

I am Creative Director at Acart Communications, a Canadian Social Issues Marketing agency. Read more