When you’re watching the Super Bowl on Feb. 12, one commercial might stop you in your tracks. Working with Cancer, a cross-industry coalition formed by Publicis Groupe, has bought ad space to launch a global wake-up call, urging everyone across the country to play their part in supporting colleagues with cancer.
The short film, called “Monday,” is the next step in the mass media campaign, which was first announced at the World Economic Forum in Davos earlier in January. It immediately gained interest among major companies which also understood the importance of breaking down the stigma around cancer.
First, let’s rewind. Arthur Sadoun, CEO of Publicis Groupe, was diagnosed and treated for cancer last year and decided to inform his workforce before he went under treatment since he knew it would impact his ability to travel among other things.
“He explained to everybody what was going on,” said Carla Serrano, chief strategy officer at Publicis Groupe. “Right after the video went out, he was inundated with testimonials and almost like confessions and emails about people’s experiences with cancer. It was some who had hidden it and some people who were dealing with it and didn’t tell many people.”
It was clear that this resonated with folks. While we’ve come a long way when it comes to talking about mental health in the workplace, which was heavily stigmatized at one point, there is still room to improve when it comes to other health concerns. There are often solid benefits and policies in place at large companies to help them along the way, but what has been lacking is the discussion around what people with cancer are going through.
“Sometimes it does take a personal experience and personal reflection of someone who really wants to do something about it,” said Serrano. “It’s a fairly easy lift for an incredible impact. We had the right skill set and partnerships and network to be able to harness that to accelerate momentum for change.”
Multiple research reports spotlight an unsettling figure: 50% of people are scared to tell their employer they have cancer. This could be for a number of different reasons, ranging from being scared of losing their job and accompanying health insurance, to worrying that people will regard them as a weaker employee.
“We wanted to tackle this stigma head on and create a program of social change in the workplace,” said Serrano. “We are living and working with cancer a little more with how treatments have improved.”
Working with Cancer is an alliance between major international companies united by a pledge to create an open, supportive and recovery-forward culture for people who have cancer. The founding partners include household names including Adobe, Bank of America and L’Oréal to Google, Meta and Walmart, the world’s largest private employer.
“People are our greatest asset and employee well-being is a foundational business driver and key to our culture,” said Gloria Chen, chief people officer and evp of employee experience at Adobe in a statement about why the company joined the Working with Cancer campaign. “We believe that when employees feel taken care of in and outside the office, they are empowered to do their best work.”
While the support from large corporations is significant, Publicis Groupe wants to get more people talking about it every day. That’s why the Superbowl campaign is so important. Statistics show that half of us will be diagnosed with cancer in our lifetime, which means that we can all play a part in supporting cancer patients at work.
“We want to accelerate the social chain and bust out of the office walls,” said Serrano.
The campaign’s film, which was directed by Elena Petitti Di Roreto and Martin de Thurah, depicts the journey of cancer patients and the vital importance of workplace support. Many of the crew behind ‘Monday’ are cancer survivors and caregivers themselves, bringing personal and authentic resonance to a film that highlights a universal issue.
“The objective was to create a powerful piece of communication and use emotion as a service for messaging,” said Marco Venturelli, chief creative officer of Publicis France. “It’s lifting the curtain to remind people that empathy is important. It’s the best step forward to make a more inclusive working environment for those who just want a bit of normalcy.”
The film shows two people, including one person who is a real-life cancer survivor, who go back and forth between treatment and work, showing their emotions throughout, including how it feels to be accepted and receive help.
Working with Cancer is hoping to build a safe space in all workplaces for people to discuss what they’d like to about their experience around having cancer. The campaign encourages people to share their stories online if they wish, and also helps others support their work colleagues in the best way possible.
“We still have a lot of work to do because of the stigma,” said Venturelli.