Inside Think HQ's language-transcending work to tackle bowel cancer screening

By Ruby Derrick | 1 February 2024

Think HQ's latest work relies on culturally sensitive content in order to transcend language barriers that hinder discussions around bowel cancer, as declining screening rates swept Victoria in the past year. 

Cancer Council Victoria set out to create a campaign that would encourage the use of bowel screening tests and be the impetus for seeking further information from a GP, alongside Think HQ and its multicultural engagement arm, CultureVerse.

Creating this type of content for Hindi, Punjabi and Vietnamese speaking communities stemmed from the need to increase bowel screening participation rates for Cancer Council Victoria as a result of the rates in the state dropping in the past year from 46.5% to 43.9%.

Because of the nature of the subject, it was important to depict relatable scenarios that would not be off-putting to the target audience and would drive action, Jess Billimoria, head of CultureVerse told AdNews.

“The script addressed the motivators of each community group, such as bowel screening helps you to live a long and healthy life and spend time with family and friends,” says Billimoria.

Lisa Gumbleton, group head of creative strategy at Think HQ, says the agency needed to challenge the unique barriers to testing of these large multicultural communities.

"One of the biggest barriers to participation is people don’t see themselves as being susceptible to bowel cancer,” she says.

“If they eat well, are generally healthy, and have no symptoms why should they worry about it? We needed to challenge these beliefs.”

Andy Lima, chief creative officer at Think HQ, notes the co-created campaign addressed specific community concerns through its messaging, language, and visuals. 

The insights unearthed during the creative workshops led to the ‘The Invisible Disease’ concept, he says, which incorporated moments that would be missed with family, friends, loved ones and community without reinforcing the cultural taboos and fear of diagnosis.

“The campaign talked about specifics, like the fact that people on a vegetarian diet can still be impacted by bowel cancer and factual messages around early detection saving lives were used to counter the barrier of fatalism,” says Lima.

“We believe combining different perspectives leads to a richer, more innovative and more effective creative process,” he says.

Think HQ employed a co-design approach to deliver this campaign rather than translating a concept made for audiences whose first language is English, says Lima.

“We paired Think HQ’s creative team with copywriters from each community to brainstorm and collaborate on a concept addressing the main barriers the CCV research found.”

He says that while the agency worked together to develop a central idea that resonated with all impacted communities, each concept was further created in spoken languages rather than translated, incorporating unique insights from each audience group into the messaging. 

“This ensured the creative assets were culturally relevant and aligned with community feedback gathered during concept testing,” says Lima. 

Billimoria says Think HQ is committed to bridging the gap between communications and the community it serves. 

“By bringing together our advertising team and Vietnamese-, Hindi-, and Punjabi-speaking copywriters, we not only ensure the material is clear and authentic to its target audience but also contribute to the growth of a strong network of multilingual copywriters to reflect Australia's multicultural population,” she says.

A series of co-design workshops between Think HQ's creative team and community copywriters was used to brainstorm ideas, develop concepts and executions.

Together, they formed the creative team working on the campaign, notes Lima.

“The outputs from the workshops were then tested through extensive consultation with community members. Concept testing feedback continuously informed the concept development with subsequent workshops with the campaign's creative team,” he says.

Tracy Pham, community copywriter for the Vietnamese community, says she collaborated closely with the Think HQ creative team and community leaders. 

Initially, she says, she contributed to workshops with the team to develop creative concepts and share her cultural and language insights. 

“During asset development, we tested in-language assets with community leaders in the target demographic through an online consultation to assess wording and visual elements. Being part of this project was a valuable and enriching experience for me,” says Pham.

Kate Broun, head of screening, early detection, and immunisation at Cancer Council Victoria, notes that the research conducted by Cancer Council Victoria found that these communities viewed bilingual GPs as an influential and trusted voice.

“Having the call to action come directly from them would be an effective way to drive action,” says Broun.

Billimoria at CultureVerse says that in all the agency does, it actively looks for ways to involve the community.

“It’s critical to ensure the creative is hitting the mark, but also to avoid any unintended interpretations,” she says.

The involvement of the GPs and community leaders also benefits the reach of the campaign, as these important community representatives can help to share the campaign through their networks and channels, believes Billimoria.

“By involving well-known and trusted community voices, it’s more likely that the campaign messages will be accepted and acted upon.”

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