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Case study: Skin cancer awareness

In an attempt to educate and raise awareness of sun safety, Skcin developed a hoax campaign advertising the spoof product Sunny-3

Published: 15 Dec 2011

The spoof campaign was picked up by print, digital and social media nationwide.

Client: The Karen Clifford Skin Cancer Charity

Agency: Reynolds-MacKenzie

Campaign: Sunny-3

Timescale: July to August 2011

A quick look

Skin cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer in young adults and the charity Skcin wanted a campaign to educate and raise awareness on the subject of sun safety in this hard to reach group. A cheeky hoax campaign was developed using a combination of digital, social and media relations to access the world of the young person. This included YouTube videos, e-commerce websites, a Wikipedia page, an exclusive partnership with The Sun and sustained Twitter and Facebook campaigns. All to create Sunny-3, a highly believable product with over 14,000 people, in only one week, requesting a free sample.


Skin cancer is on the increase. It is one of the most common cancers in the 15-24 age group and a significant cause of death. Yet, no other common cancer is so directly attributable to a single, avoidable cause. Posters and leaflets do not get through to younger people; at this age they feel invincible and believe skin cancer will happen to older people, not them. Skcin wanted a campaign that engaged those young people most at risk and that would ultimately change their behavioural patterns towards sun safety.


This audience is always on the look-out for an ever more efficient way to get that perfect sun tan, so the solution was to develop a spoof product that has just those claims to circumvent their defences and deliver the safe sun message to them. Reynolds-MacKenzie working with McCann London and Rubber Republic developed a fictional sun cream product called Sunny-3 which claimed to triple the power of the sun on the skin.

The credible back-story for Sunny-3 described it as a pharmaceutical treatment for winter vitamin D deficiency in northern latitudes. This was placed at the heart of a fictional trend among Scandinavian teenagers for ‘night-tanning’: a craze whereby people maximise their tans late into the daylight summer nights by misusing the product.

Reynolds-MacKenzie worked closely with The Sun to run two fake news stories about this craze reaching the UK. This drove readers to a YouTube clip purporting to be a news report on ‘night-tanning’ by a Swedish broadcaster. Supported by online product reviews, Twitter and Facebook campaigns, people were directed to an e-commerce site where visitors were invited to apply for a free sample by entering their details.

A week later, the hoax was exclusively revealed in The Sun and, simultaneously, applicants for the product trial received a hard-hitting warning about the dangers of binge tanning. A press release was then issued to all other media with the results of the campaign.


A combination of digital, social and media relations, the campaign tricked 250,000 people into viewing Sunny-3 ads. 17,000+ people visited e-commerce sites for the fictional product, with a staggering 82% ordering a free sample.

Media results included three articles in The Sun as part of the exclusivity package negotiated and campaign results picked up by national media including: Radio Four, Radio Five, Daily Mail, Independent on Sunday and Metro

Client verdict

Reynolds-MacKenzie provided amazing support for this spoof campaign which successfully targeted our young people warning them of the dangers of over-exposure to the sun. We are delighted with the results.”
Charlotte Fionda, Skcin Marketing Director

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