“What’s that?” Two words from Sue Manber’s daughter led to the diagnosis of her skin cancer. Six years later, those same words have become the core of an awareness campaign led by Manber for the Skin Cancer Foundation. 

For the organization’s 40th anniversary, the nonprofit wanted to roll out a major awareness push. Manber, who is active with the foundation, appealed to Digitas Health’s leadership to develop a pro bono public service campaign for the foundation. 

The campaign, The Big See, includes the typical social media push alongside experiential elements like a “magic mirror.” It equips people with the knowledge to self-screen and spot early signs of skin cancer.

To inform the campaign, the team spoke with dermatologists to identify three signs of skin cancer that became the main message of The Big See campaign: new, changing or unusual.

“The first thought was most people think that skin cancer isn’t any big deal, but actually they don’t know that more than two people die an hour [from it],” said Manber, chief strategy officer at Digitas Health. “They don’t know that just five sunburns will double your chances of melanoma, and they don’t know that one in five people are going to get skin cancer. So that was really a messaging core that came out of our workshop. Our insight was it’s just skin cancer, it’s no big deal and our brief landed on that simple idea of ‘what’s that?’” 

While the campaign touches all the points of a typical disease awareness campaign, it goes one step further with its “magic mirror,” an experiential element. A talking mirror, voiced by an improv comedian who tells people about skin cancer, will be placed in retail locations around the country.

The mirror is a tool to draw people in, Manber said, and it also ties to the campaign’s focus on self-screening. On The Big See website, one of the tools needed to do a full-body self-screening is a full-length mirror.

“This idea of using your eyes and creating an interactive mirror that would then use an improv comedian to draw people in was really a pivotal moment that pushed it beyond an advertising campaign to a truly experiential campaign,” Manber said. “Because I’ve seen [in other campaigns] that you can have a lot of facts and a lot of messages, but if you aren’t able to engage people and draw them in, it’s not going to be as impactful.”

This campaign was also spurred by the 40th anniversary of the foundation, but Manber said it will run for at least three years. Alongside the social media aspect and interactive mirror, the campaign will also be distributed in doctors’ offices through a partnership with Outcome Health.

The Big See has a youthful feel, which Manber said is another nod to her experience with skin cancer. Although people over age 45 are more likely to have skin cancer, the organization is looking to educate young people to both keep an eye on their own skin and look out for older relatives, like Manber’s daughter did.

“The only way we’re really going to ultimately change behavior is if we get younger people involved,” Manber said. “Given the trends, millennials and their parents are really connecting on different levels in a way that generations in the past haven’t. And then, of course, coming back to my story and the fact that my daughter was the one who said, ‘Hey mom, what’s that?’”