Harry Connick Jr. plays his part to stop colon cancer screening procrastination

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A first colonoscopy is not a procedure that people look forward to. However, a campaign from Cologuard aims to get people to stop procrastinating.


People over 50 years old are recommended to get screened for colon cancer, but many will put the procedure off for years. The average age at which someone gets a colon cancer screening is 53, notes Kevin Conroy, CEO of Exact Sciences, the parent company of Cologuard. Therefore, the organization launched a campaign to reach people as they turn 50.  


“Our goal is to get people to get screened when they turn 50 to solve this problem that people put off screening because they do not want to get a colonoscopy and they avoid it,” Conroy explained. “We want to reach people when they turn 50 and want to engage them to let them know there is a new advanced option for colon cancer screening that's really easy.”


The group launched the campaign, The New 50, in March to do that with the help of singer, actor, and talk show host Harry Connick Jr. and his wife, Jill. Cologuard worked with TogoRun, precisioneffect, and Norbella on the campaign. The budget of the push wasn't disclosed.


Connick, who turned 50 last fall, is encouraging men and women his age and older to get a preventive colon cancer screening and promoting Cologuard as an easier option than a colonoscopy.


“Part of it is fear and embarrassment of getting screened with colonoscopy,” Conroy said. “While others just think they can't afford a day, or day and a half, off to get a screening.”


The campaign wasn't just designed to reach those who have just turned, or are about to turn, 50 years old. Conroy said the effort was designed to reach anyone over 50 who hasn't gotten a colonoscopy.


Cologuard picked Connick and his wife as spokespeople for this campaign because of their experiences with cancer, Conroy said. Jill Connick was diagnosed with breast cancer five years ago, and Connick lost his mother to ovarian cancer when he was young. Cologuard wanted a celebrity who could genuinely talk about how cancer has affected his or her life.


Although Connick doesn't have a direct connection to colon cancer, the campaign is also emphasizing the importance of preventive screenings and misconceptions about the average person's risk of developing the disease. Jill Connick's breast cancer was caught by a preventive ultrasound, and Conroy wants to make colon cancer screenings as commonplace as a mammogram.


The New 50 received more than 376 million impressions in its first month, and the campaign's videos on Facebook have hit 5.6 million views. The New 50 is running alongside Cologuard's advertising campaign with the talking Cologuard box, which has appeared on cable TV, radio, print, social media, and online search.


Conroy said one of the campaign's challenges is the sheer size of the demographic it is trying to reach. Cologuard campaigns are targeting anyone between age 50 and 84, which adds up to 85 million people.


“With one in three people not getting a screening, we want to make sure patients start this conversation,” Conroy said. “We think that Harry, Jill, and these broader efforts will provoke that conversation. The world changed for breast cancer and cervical cancer screening, and the world still needs to change for colon cancer screening.”


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