Your next poo could save your life: NHS England reminds those at risk to take the bowel cancer screening test

Your next poo could save your life: NHS England reminds those at risk to take the bowel cancer screening test

NHS England has launched a major new multichannel campaign to drive more people to complete the bowel cancer screening test when sent one.

The push was developed in partnership with M&C Saatchi London.

As part of the NHS’ broader ambition to increase the proportion of all types of cancers being diagnosed early, the new campaign aims to boost participation in bowel cancer screening amongst those who get invited to take part.

The key benefit of the test is that it can detect signs of cancer way before someone would ever notice any symptoms.

Those who are eligible for bowel cancer screening receive a Faecal Immunochemical Test (or FIT) kit in the post once every two years, which enables them to quickly and easily take a poo sample at home, and to send it to the NHS for testing.

Most of the campaign’s target audience say they will complete the bowel cancer test when they receive one in the post, yet the latest data shows that almost one third of people who were sent an NHS bowel cancer screening kit in England last year did not go on to complete it. 

This can be due to a number of reasons, from feeling it’s unhygienic through to cultural taboos regarding taking a poo sample, as well as the incorrect assumption that if you don’t have any symptoms, there’s no need to test.

The key benefit of the test is that it can detect signs of cancer way before someone would ever notice any symptoms. 

Given that early-stage diagnosis of bowel cancer improves chances of survival by over 90%, it makes the test – and that tiny sample of poo – a life-saving opportunity. This led to M&C Saatchi’s creative thought: your next poo could save your life.

To ensure more people complete the bowel cancer test when they receive one, M&C Saatchi created a hero TV spot, “Ribbon Dancer”, directed by Si&Ad at Academy Films.

In the film, we see a man in his fifties getting up in the morning before he heads downstairs and takes a loo roll from a bag by the door. This is the moment inspiration strikes. He begins to unravel the paper before bursting into a graceful dance. Like a rhythmic gymnast, he uses the toilet paper as his ribbon. The display is a joyous celebration of life, choreographed to the tune of ‘I’ve got to be me’ by Sammy Davis Jr.

The man’s dance takes him around the house and out into the garden before eventually leading him to the privacy of his bathroom. A series of quick cuts depict the completion of the bowel cancer screening kit, before a voiceover instructs the audience, “If you’re sent a bowel cancer screening kit, put it by the loo. Don’t put it off.”

Along with TV, the integrated push also includes activity across video-on-demand, search, social, online video and community radio.

Media planning for the campaign is by Wavemaker, and media buying is by OmniGov.

Currently around 4.5 million people are invited to take part in the NHS bowel cancer screening programme each year.

Phil Bastable, deputy director, head of marketing and social media team, NHS England, said: “Diagnosing bowel cancer at an early stage greatly improves a person’s chances of survival, which is why we want to ensure that as many people as possible complete the bowel cancer screening test when they’re sent one. This campaign by M&C Saatchi London addresses a serious, sensitive issue in an engaging and memorable way, showing how taking this quick, easy-to-use test really does have the power to save your life.”

Guy Bradbury, creative partner, M&C Saatchi London, added: “To remind people who have been invited to take the bowel cancer test next time they go to the loo, we wanted to create a campaign that was distinctive, memorable and joyous, reminding people - through ribbon dance - that a simple screening test could save their lives. Or in the words of Sammy Davis Jnr, “Live, not merely survive.””


Creative agency: M&C Saatchi London
Creative Partner: Guy Bradbury
Creative Director: Tom Kennedy
Copywriter: Amy Parkhill
Art Director:
Ed East
Agency Producer:
Ashley Williams
Executive Producer:
Gareth Williams
Senior Account Director:
Tabby Powell-Tuck
Senior Account Manager:
Emma Lowrey
Senior Strategist:
Hannah Thomson
Head of Behaviour Change:
Richard Storey
Client Partner:
Angus Maclay
Production Company:
Academy Films
Executive Producer:
Medb Riordan
Georgina Smith
Production Assistant:
Heza Jalloh
DOP: Sebastian Wintero
Supple Nam
Production Designer:
Mikey Hollywood
1st AD:
Clara Paris
Costume Designer:
Lucy Hagan
Edit House:
The Assembly Rooms
Editor: Sam Rice-Edwards
Post House:
nineteen twenty
Kai van Beers
Sound Design:
James Saunders
Music Supervision:
Lizz Harman at DLMDD
Client: NHS England
Deputy Director, Head of Marketing and Social Media Team: 
Phil Bastable: 
Lead Campaigns Manager:
 Ben King
Senior Campaigns Manager
: Imelda McAloon

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