Westborough, MA – DetecTogether, an organization dedicated to saving lives by teaching people how to detect cancer early, recently brought on strategy and creative agency VSA Partners to renew its “Response Time Matters” campaign targeting a high-risk demographic: firefighters.
“Cancer is the leading cause of death in firefighters,” says Tricia Laursen, President and Executive Director of DetecTogether. “And by raising awareness of what a cancer symptom can feel or look like and accelerating behavior shifts, we can help change that.”
The videos star FDNY firefighters along with firefighter and paramedic Jason Patton, whose “Fire Department Chronicles” social media series has nearly 2 million followers.
“The campaign hinges on two ideas critical to breaking into the firefighter audience: humor and authenticity,” says Mike Lee, VSA Director of Strategy. By partnering with Patton—who’s known for his comedic content—and the FDNY, the campaign delivers on both.
"Our jobs are incredibly serious," says Patton. “Lives are on the line. So between jobs, while we’re at the firehouse, we like to lighten things up. And that’s exactly what DetecTogether’s videos do, using comedy to get firefighters taking action against cancer.”
Doug Gallow, VSA Associate Partner of Client Engagement, adds, “These partnerships allow our campaign to come from the firefighting ranks itself—a message for firefighters by firefighters.”
Occupational cancer is the No. 1 cause of line-of-duty deaths in the fire service. Firefighters are 9% more likely to be diagnosed and 14% more likely to die from cancer than the general population. By raising awareness of what warning signs of cancer can feel or look like and motivating firefighters to use DetecTogether’s simple roadmap to early detection—called “3 Steps Detect”—the organization is working to help improve these outcomes.
“We want every firefighter to use 3 Steps Detect, because it can save their lives, and we want every person to know about it, too. This campaign is part of our ultimate goal to bring the lifesaving advantage of early cancer detection to the entire population,” says Laursen.
The 3 Steps Detect process includes:
The worst cancer diagnosis is a late one. The National Institutes of Health (2022) found that 50% of cancer cases are late-stage diagnoses, and only 14% of cancer cases are identified through recommended screenings. DetecTogether’s mission is to bring the lifesaving advantage of early cancer detection to all, because awareness and action by patients plays a vital role in getting a diagnosis earlier.
As part of achieving this goal, and with content quality and versatility in mind, VSA Partners captured video at the Fire Department of New York’s training academy on Randall’s Island, known for its tough courses and highly respected programs. The media plan, executed by Prohaska Consulting, provides DetecTogether with 12 months of fresh content that can create trackable metrics around firefighters’ actions and beyond. The refreshed campaign augments the existing organic components—like kits for fire stations that contain edgy, informative posters about the early signs of cancer—with digital, paid social and influencer promotions.
“We’re excited to save lives. That’s what the work is about, and VSA Partners helped us do that with creativity and humor along the way,” Laursen says.
Summing up the work, Patton adds, “Anytime you can get firefighters singing and dancing is a good day. Watch the videos—you’ll see what I mean.”
Response Time Matters was made possible with the support provided by EMW-2021-FP-00573,1A Auto, Last Call Foundation, Powertech Controls, the Fire Department of the City of New York (FDNY), Firefighter Cancer Support Network, and the Center for Fire, Rescue, and EMS Research.
DetecTogether is a non-profit education and advocacy organization located in Westborough, Mass. It was founded to address an unmet need in the cancer world. While it is undisputed that early cancer detection leads to the best health outcomes, no one was teaching people how to identify early warning signs of cancer. In consultation with doctors from top cancer centers, founders Jim and Nancy Coghlin and their family set out to provide people with this life-saving education.
Now in its second decade, the mission of DetecTogether is to save lives by teaching people how to detect cancer early and be active partners in their healthcare. For more information, please visit DetecTogether.org.