Havas Chicago goes “topless” for Breast Cancer Awareness Month… And perhaps attention?

October 30, 2015


My old agency in Chicago (EuroRSCG then, Havas now) made some noise this week by using their entrance on Grand & Wabash as a mock peep show in support of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Basically, the agency “dolled up” the façade to look like a seedy strip joint. When passersby looked into the “peephole” in the window they saw a trio of black mannequins tattooed with copy about breast cancer and the agency’s pledge to donate a buck to the cause every time someone uploaded content with the hashtag #HavasPeepShow.

Conceptually, I get it. What’s not to get? It’s a bait and switch, linking breast cancer awareness with a lurid tableaux dramatizing, ahem, breast awareness. On that level I will concede it’s a clever ruse.

However, when I posted the story on Twitter and Facebook, a number of my peers derided the effort calling the stunt “cheap and facile…like a fart joke.” Another wrote: “Tone deaf hipster drivel that disrespects the intended audience – the energy would be better spent on winning clients.”


Important to note these comments came from people in the industry so they know, as well as I, that Havas Chicago did this to generate publicity for itself now and hopefully win some awards later. The self-serving nature is not lost on us.

“Us” is the key word. We in advertising know too much about ourselves and are beyond cynical when it comes to self promotion – except when we are the ones doing it. It’s like the matter of scam ads. We all bitch about other agencies creating them but somehow it’s okay when we do it.

Back to the peep show. What about pedestrians? Would they take umbrage at an ad agency doing something like this or would they just think it’s a cool idea in support of a good cause? I don’t know. Probably both and everything in between. In the above photo a mother is seen walking by the display with her young daughter. As a father of three daughters how does that make me feel? Tough call. I’m pretty liberal when it comes to my kids. How about you?

Like one of the upset commenters on Facebook, my mother had breast cancer. Fought it successfully. He thought his mom would be pissed. If I’m being honest, my mom might get a kick out of this. Mom- if you’re reading let us know.

Yet another Facebook friend said this was an “ad about women done by men.” If true, that still doesn’t make it wrong. Unless it’s sexist, which is what I think the person was suggesting. So is it? Lord knows peep shows are. But does the misdirection here make it okay? Does the end justify the means?


3 Responses to “Havas Chicago goes “topless” for Breast Cancer Awareness Month… And perhaps attention?”

  1. ron lumberg said

    they’re just playing the game. it will probably win some awards. and it will probably raise money. WIN. WIN.

  2. That’s some damned good question-asking there: concise and as neutral as possible, while openly acknowledging pre-formed preferences. Another question would be regarding environmental context — for instance, exactly what kind of neighbourhood is it in? The street names are given, but aside from Chicogans, few of the rest of us are going to know whether we’re talking about Yorkville, Queen Street East, or Rosedale. The advertisement’s emotional impact will vary according to the expectations of those viewing it. A neighbourhood (which can include a shopping mall) that focuses on stores such as Toys R Us, Disney, and Build-A-Bear might not be the best place for such a display. In another setting, however, it might be extremely well received.

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