AstraZeneca debuts cancer awareness campaign to encourage continuing care during COVID-19

AstraZeneca wants people to know that while many aspects of daily life have stopped during the pandemic, cancer hasn’t.

That's the goal of the company's “New Normal Same Cancer” awareness campaign to address the drop in cancer screenings and care during the pandemic. Co-created with cancer patient coalitions worldwide and with guidance from a behavioral psychologist, the central message is straightforward.

“Don't wait, contact your doctor, and get checked,” Dave Fredrickson, executive vice president of AstraZeneca’s oncology business unit, said.

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AZ realized the need to get a message out quickly after meeting with the advocacy groups revealed concerns around what a halt in cancer care services could mean for patients.

There's been a 46.4% drop in newly diagnosed patients in the U.S. across six cancer areasbreast, colorectal, lung, pancreatic, gastric and esophageal, according to AZ. That could result in more than 33,890 deaths from cancer in the next year, their estimates say.

The project was initiated and completed quickly in part because of the pandemic; no travel rules actually made it easier to coordinate schedules and get people together.

The spot opens with black-and-white video of a crowd of masked people walking through the streets. The text on the screen reads: “The world is navigating a New Normal,” and, as flashes of acid green color appear, the text then changes to: “But every day the same Cancer Threat remains.”

Dramatic music swells with the words, “Cancer isn’t waiting for things to go back to normal, why should you?” The ad then switches to full color to show people returning to their doctors and appointments.

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AstraZeneca initially posted the spot on LinkedIn and Twitter globally, but it was quickly shared by members of the community. It soon began appearing on additional digital channels such as Facebook and Instagram.

“It's the organic work from the global patient coalitions," Fredrickson said. "They represent hundreds of cancer patient groups and so that's been one element of it.  We've also seen really a tremendous level of enthusiasm and passion from our own employee base."

Future plans for the campaign include expanding to print and television as public service announcements. Country-by-country local content will also follow.

While the campaign is unbranded, AstraZeneca’s portfolio of oncology drugs includes anti-PD-L1 Imfinzi; targeted lung cancer med Tagrisso; and PARP inhibitor Lynparza, which the company co-markets with Merck & Co.

AZ's oncology portfolio posted a strong showing for the second quarter of 2020, generating $2.81 billion, up 25% year over year to beat industry watchers’ expectations.