Alison Weissbrot
Feb 1, 2023

Publicis takes Working with Cancer pledge to the Super Bowl

The initiative, which aims to raise awareness and support for people struggling with cancer in the workplace, will launch a consumer-facing campaign at Super Bowl LVII.

Publicis takes Working with Cancer pledge to the Super Bowl

Publicis is taking its Working with Cancer initiative to the biggest stage in the U.S.: The Super Bowl. 

The holding company said on Tuesday that it will use the Super Bowl to build on the momentum of the global pledge it launched to galvanize the business world to better support and de-stigmatize employees working with cancer. 

The Wording With Cancer pledge, launched at the World Economic Forum in Davos in January, is meant to draw awareness to the fact that 50% of all people will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime and aims to develop tangible commitments from employers to be more supportive of those working with the disease. So far, more than 30 global corporations have signed the pledge, including Walmart, PepsiCo, Verizon, L’Oréal, Adobe and Omnicom. 

The initiative is supported by a multimillion-dollar donated media campaign kicking off in time for World Cancer Day on February 4, which includes a billboard in Times Square and a guaranteed reach of 1 billion people from Meta.

The Super Bowl spot, called Monday, comes in addition to the pro bono media push. It will air regionally in the New York area during the game, where Publicis is partnering closely with Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Publicis bought the Super Bowl spot, but declined to disclose how much it paid. 

The holding company felt that although the pledge is for businesses, the campaign needed a consumer-facing element to serve as a “wake-up call” for people to support their colleagues with cancer.

“Social change in workplaces often takes years and comes in dribbles and drabbles,” said Carla Serrano, chief strategy officer at Publicis Groupe. “We can create the programs and put the systems together, but if we don’t rally and galvanize people and wake them up to the fact that cancer is absolutely pervasive and part of culture, we [can’t] affect workplace culture. What better place than the Super Bowl to launch that idea?”

Directed by Elena Petitti di Roreto and Martin de Thurah, Monday follows two people as they prepare for their return to work. The two-minute film cuts between scenes of each receiving treatment and suffering from side effects, juxtaposed against scenes of them returning to work. The film is set to a crescendoing piano melody that builds intensity as each journey progresses.

It ends with each worker being embraced and supported by their bosses and coworkers as they transition back to work, with the tagline: “Half of us will be diagnosed with cancer in our lifetime. All of us should give support at work.” 

“The goal is to give an emotional glimpse of what people who have cancer go through,” said Marco Venturelli, chief creative officer of Publicis France, who led creative on the campaign. “Sometimes they are physical or mental. Often they are both. One thing we realized is just making it a bit more normal is so important.”  

Venturelli added that the project was especially impactful in that numerous crew members were impacted by cancer as well. In fact, one of the main actors in the film is a cancer survivor whose career was impacted by his illness. 

“It’s eye-opening to see how many people have this [impacting] their life,” Venturelli said.

Inside the pledge

Publicis Groupe launched the Working with Cancer pledge based on the experience of CEO Arthur Sadoun, who was diagnosed with and treated for HPV-related cancer last year. Instead of hiding his condition, he made the unusually vulnerable decision as the leader of a public company to go public in a video that resonated across the business community.

Led by Publicis’ charity arm, The Publicis Foundation, the pledge is backed by leading cancer institutions including the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Macmillan Cancer Support and the Gustave Roussy Institute.

Publicis launched the pledged with its own specific commitments including providing job security for employees with cancer for at least one year and assigning mentors or coaches, in addition to training a community of volunteers, to help survivors reacclimate. The pledge extends to caregivers and those with other chronic illnesses. 

Publicis’ commitments can be used as a blueprint, but the idea is for companies to craft pledges specific to their workforces. Walmart, for instance, will pay for travel and lodging for its employees’ cancer treatment to simplify complex state-by-state laws, Serrano said.

“The pledge needs to be flexible depending on your industry, type of organization, skill sets and people you have,” she said. 

Publicis Groupe aims to sign up 1,000 businesses to the pledge by The World Economic Forum next year, a number it is tracking alongside the organization. As a “soft metric,” the goal is to create a culture that minimizes “the awkwardness, the difficulty in talking about it in the workplace … because that is so much of where the pain comes from,” Serrano said.

The holding company plans to support the Working with Cancer Initiative with more marketing pushes throughout the year.


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