Death by Character Flaw

Posted on March 1, 2011 at 11:02 am

Here’s a big, red message we’ve been seeing on billboards and bus-stop shelters:

Whom do you think this message is targeting? What kind of emotions is it aiming for? How about action – would it move you to do something differently?

We weren’t sure. It’s attention getting – you’ve got to give it that. And it’s edgy – we do like edgy. But here we go with that medical terrorism thing again – which study after study has shown is just not effective.

For fun, we snapped a picture of the billboard, carried it around for a bit, and asked folks to share their reactions. Here are some of the things we heard from the men we talked to:

“This hits home – my father died because he was too stubborn to go to the doctor or ER after vomiting blood for 24 hours… by the time I learned this he was gone.”

“Makes me think of my father, who refuses to have a colonoscopy.”

“I don’t get it – what’s it asking me to do?”

“I’m confused – is this some kind of new condition I can get?”

“Yes, I’m stubborn…and proud of it!”

“F#*& you, billboard.”

And now from the women:

“I’m guessing this has something to do with health and heart disease, but at first I thought it was a reference to war.”

“Makes sense — my dad drove himself to the doctor after having a heart attack, where they called an ambulance.”

“Message is ok, I guess, but why bury the call to action?”

“To me it feels very blame-y. Men will DIE from their character flaw…what do I DO with that information? And it’s not that helpful to me because reminding my husband of his stubbornness has never been an effective method of change.”

Clearly it got our attention – and it validated the experiences many folks have had – but maybe not in a way that actually helps change the status quo and inspire us to go get the annual screenings we know we should.

So… what’s an alternative if you’re going to take a page out of the SeduceHealth handbook?

When it comes down to it, we applaud the groups developing these kinds of messages, because they do get us talking about some incredibly important topics in fresh ways – whether or not you agree with the approach.

It’s just that you may find that the behavior you’re trying to change is something that (ironically) might make people dig in their heels even more.

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  • Heather Clark March 15, 2011 at 8:47 am

    I get the message and it definitely sparks conversation. My father almost died of a heart attack because he chose to ignore the signs. Thankfully he was at the right place, at the right time and was able use the wake-up call to make some changes in his life. With that said, he is still as stubborn as a mule. These billboards can be used as a reminder, so the action to take should really be more visible. If you are a stubborn man, or know a stubborn man (or many), this is the action that you should take so you (or someone you love) doesn’t die. I actually like the second billboard displayed a little better because the action is clearer and right below the headline. Good conversations…

  • Ann Botsis December 5, 2011 at 10:53 am

    I know this is an old article, but this billboard just got MY Husband through the doc’s door for a potentially serious symptom he’d been ignoring! Kudos!
    If the guys are going to dig their heels in MORE because of this pointed ad, well then, it doesn’t REALLY change anything…..they weren’t going in anyway! If it makes people think, and kicks even ONE guy into gear, when he was dreading and procrastinating…..? Worth it all the way!!