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Prostate Cancer Foundation Bunts a Blooper Into the Infield

In baseball, a bunt is a small hit that goes no farther than the infield.

And bunt is what the Prostate Cancer Foundation (PCF) did with this ad that I’ve seen recently in Newsweek and BusinessWeek magazines.

The ad’s call to action is that you go online and pledge “as little as” $1 for each home run hit during Major League Baseball play between Thursday, June 11 and Father’s Day, a holiday celebrating fathers that falls on Sunday June 21 this year.

Why? Well 186,500 men in the United States are stricken with prostate cancer each year. And, “in the time it takes to play nine innings” nine men die of the disease, about 30,000 men a year.

The PCF estimates that 143 home runs are likely to be hit over the 11-day period between June 11 and June 21. But while the body copy says you can pledge as little as $1 per home run, in fact, you can pledge as little as $0.25 cents.

While these kinds of scoring-linked promotions are common enough, they’re usually set up so that a sponsor makes a donation whenever a pre-designated number of three-point shots are made by the home team in basketball, for instance. In such cases, at the end of the game the announcer inside the arena intones that “the insurance agents of Allstate just made a $500 donation to Big Brothers and Big Sisters.”

It’s satisfying to hear that some sponsor is on the hook for another donation to a worthy cause. But when it’s you who’s on the hook, as in this promotion from the PCF, are you hoping for a lot of home runs or relatively few?

Given that, this would be a better promotion if there was some kind of match from a fat cat corporate sponsor, whereby for every dollar you pledge the sponsor matches all or part of it.

I don’t see what the headline or the illustration has to do with the call to action. If PCF wants to trumpet its researchers that’s fine. But it’s self-defeating to force a relationship between prostate research, MLB, and a donation plea in one ad.

Moreover, I ask myself why the illustration draws equivalency between an unnamed hitter from an unnamed team and unnamed researcher in a white coat, both of which look like stock photos.

PCF has secured the support of 10 big leaguers. Why not feature a picture of big-leaguer Ken Griffey Jr., one of PCF’s supporters, and recount a scenario that describes how teamwork won an important game?

I’m puzzled also by how Major League Baseball is treated in the ad. The language makes it seem like the MLB is a hesitant participant at best.

It seems like PCF is trying to brand Father’s Day. It would make sense. The breast cancer charities have successfully branded October and the heart charities have branded February. June is probably open to be branded for prostate cancer. But Father’s Day is just one more element in an ad that is already too cluttered.

I question why the body copy leads with a question, which is almost always a weak approach. For readers it’s too easy to respond to such questions with a question of their own: “Who cares?”

Then there’s the callout quote in orange, directly above the logos: “When everybody does their part, the whole team wins.” True enough. But I don’t think ‘team guilt’ really works for people who aren’t yet part of the team.

Finally, this campaign cries out for a contest element. I imagine something like when you make a pledge, you enter to win a trip to the All Star Game or even the World Series. These kind of contests require an alternate (read: free) form of entry. But that’s OK because those entries can be the start of a mailing list.

This ad and this campaign could be home runs. Too bad the PCF decided to bunt.

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