Behind the Work in association withThe Immortal Awards
How McCann Santiago Gave Gratuitous Graffiti a Purpose for Testicular Cancer Awareness
Advertising Agency
Santiago, Chile
McCann Santiago’s chief creative officer Jose Solari and creative director Felipe Abufhele on creating the guerrilla campaign that uses vulgar vandalism as a PSA for testicular cancer

Inspired by the insightful statistic that in Chile around 100 men over 20-years-old die annually from testicular cancer, creative agency McCann Santiago came up with an innovative way to spread awareness of a simple self-examination that could save countless lives - ‘Graffitesti’. In 95% of cases, if caught early, people with testicular cancer make a full recovery - making increased self-examinations and awareness a vital tool for Chile’s National Institute for Cancer, who partnered with McCann Santiago for this campaign.

In every major city, in every male bathroom and on millions of walls and sides of buildings across the world, the spray-painted or markered image of the male genitalia can be found. Though varying in its crudeness, colour, size and anatomical accuracy, the graffiti-ing of penises is a global and historic phenomenon that seemingly transcends any cultural or geographical barriers. So, if you’re looking for locations for an innovative OOH campaign for testicular cancer awareness, where better to start than with the ever-present ‘Graffitesti’ that’s conveniently plastered in any city wherever a discerning dong doodler can reach?

For their guerrilla campaign - not asking permission from anyone - McCann Santiago created stickers in the shape of a hand that could be added to any graffiti penis and instantly turn the icon into an informative, instructional diagram for a testicular self-examination. The campaign also featured an accompanying digital filter on Instagram, allowing the ‘stickers’ to be shared and used on a global scale, not just on the walls in Santiago.

To go behind the scenes on this cover awareness-raising operation, LBB’s Ben Conway spoke to McCann Santiago’s chief creative officer Jose Solari and creative director Felipe Abufhele about avoiding censorship, mapping out all the penis graffiti in Santiago and how they designed the stickers.

LBB> Where did the initial creative spark for this campaign come from? Did the Instituto Nacional del Cáncer approach you with a brief? Have you worked with them before?

Jose and Felipe> We realised that there is graffiti present all over the world which did not make much sense and rather, was offensive to many people. On the other hand, little is said about testicular cancer, it was there that we set out to think of something that would deliver a direct message to prevent this deadly disease and that is how ‘Graffitesti’ was born.

LBB> How did you notice the opportunity to use this - previously meaningless - graffiti for an awareness campaign? 

Jose and Felipe> We first toured the city and indeed there were too many penises drawn in different places. We marked them on a map to identify them and then went with the team to put stickers on them. When we hit the first one we realised that it was a good idea since the same people in the place made us feel that way with their good opinions. We turned meaningless graffiti into something that actually delivered an important educational message to people.

LBB> How did you react when you first received the brief? Did any ideas or concepts immediately spring to mind?

Jose and Felipe> Some time ago we had been talking about the subject with the National Cancer Institute. We had the data that testicular cancer is a disease that mainly affects young people and that, if it is detected early, it has a very good prognosis. So we started to think about how to talk to this group and that this should be everywhere in every place. During this process, we found the [Graffitesti] idea and we realised that it really was what we had to do, so we presented it to them. They were amazed at the truth we found and we all got excited right away. Two weeks after, we already had the campaign up.

LBB> How was the process of designing and distributing the hand stickers? 

Jose and Felipe> We were looking for a simple design that had the visual codes of the street, and was attractive, consisting of a hand with three words summarising the testicular self-examination:


Transforming the graffiti into a self-care guide for everyone and everywhere, we printed stickers of different sizes, for big and small penises. Then we toured the city by bicycle. We marked the penises on a map and in this way it became easier for us to identify them and intervene with them later.

LBB> There are often laws against graffiti in public spaces - did you have any legal concerns when putting up stickers? 

Jose and Felipe> It was 100% a guerrilla campaign. We didn't ask anyone's permission. We decided to appropriate the penis graffiti we found and intervene with it. The penises were always there and from one day to the next, they were with a message of conscience for everyone, everywhere.

LBB> What has the reaction from the public been like? Do you have any data on social interactions regarding this campaign?

Jose and Felipe> The campaign immediately had a good reception, the first 48 hours we had more than 250,000 reproductions. Many people shared it and we reached different parts of the world. We designed a filter on Instagram (@graffitesti), so that people could add the sticker digitally, every time they found graffiti of a penis. In this way, the campaign became a cause that everyone could participate in and share this message on social networks.

LBB> What was the hardest challenge you faced on this campaign and how did you overcome it? 

Jose and Felipe> The hardest thing was thinking of a campaign that could be censored. However, as the message seeks to save lives, people took it in a good way to the point of spreading it themselves.

LBB> Anything else you would like to add?

Jose and Felipe> We created a new means of communication, with graffiti that were always there. We never thought that a penis drawn on the street could be such an effective means of making people aware of this terrible disease.