9.24.2007

Ads on a Bus Go Round and Round

So I spotted this ad on a bus. It was paid for by DC's Department of Health. I think it was for the DC Cancer Control Registry. I, of course, have no beef with an organization dedicated to helping people with cancer. In my experience, cancer has extremely limited humor potential. So I have no need for it.

But the ad bothered me. It was a picture of two older black people. One male, one female. The text read something along the lines of:

"Did you know: Cancer kills more African-Americans than any other ethnic group in DC?"

Now, I'm all for preventing cancer and giving the best treatment to those who have it. However, I am also against bus advertisements treating me like I'm an idiot.

DC's population: 581,530
Demographics: 58% Black, 39% White, 3% everything else.
So, approximately: 337,300 blacks, 226,800 whites.

Can you imagine how statistically significant it would be if cancer, or anything else for that matter, were killing less blacks than whites? Of course cancer is killing more blacks than anyone else. The city is majority black! That's why it's called Chocolate City, sillies.

I hope they do more signs like this. Did you know that old age kills more African-Americans than any other ethnic group in DC?

18 comments:

  1. Funny you posted this Rusty....I saw the same ad and, literally, thought the exact same thing (about the demographics and percentages). Ha ha. Perfect example of how statistics can be skewed to “prove” anything really.

    "There are lies, damn lies, and statistics” – Mark Twain

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  2. They should have used the space to point out the disparities that exist with regard to cancer - that African-Americans tend to have their cancer detected later, and receive worse treatment (due to a range of factors), and thus have a higher mortality rate than other ethnic groups, regardless of population size.

    That said, a major reason for that disparity regarding early detection is due to lack of awareness, and also fear of diagnosis, so one must applaud their basic premise- grab the reader's attention and get them interested - even if the statistic they used is pretty meaningless.

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  3. Maybe DC could start by doing something about the drinking water here.

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  4. Did you know that Metrobuses hit and kill more black mothers named Angel than Eskimos?

    (This joke is actually correct, RIP Angel Walters, thanks for the joke)

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  5. You are misreading. The claim is that More African-Americans in D.C. are killed by cancer than are killed by Laotian-Americans, Belgian-Americans, Jews, etc.

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  6. pretty sure what they're saying is that a larger *percentage* of african americans are killed by cancer than other ethnic groups, as in number of deaths/population, not just number of deaths deaths. it's 4th grade math, really.

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  7. I'm pretty sure that the point of the ad was to encourage more prevention, detection and early treatment in the urban black community, not to shed light on any underlying injustice. In that vein, it doesn't really matter if the statistic cited was misleading (though as cuddlebunny points out, you might be misreading) as long as it provokes the desired behavior.

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  8. I am absolutely positive I am not misreading. The thing is, I'm sure that the detection and mortality rates (by percentages) are much worse for blacks than any other ethnicity.

    But that is not what the ad is saying. Instead of using a more sensible statistic, it goes with a pure counting stat.

    And, fuzzy, I know the point of the ad is good and wonderful and all that. But the way they went about it is perplexing.

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  9. Would you prefer, "Did you know: WHEN YOU ADJUST THE NUMBERS TO ACCOUNT FOR DIFFERENCES IN POPULATION SIZE, Cancer kills more African-Americans than any other ethnic group in DC?"

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  10. This is how the ad should read:

    "Did you know: MPD kills more African-Americans than any other ethnic group in DC?"

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  11. In DC, Metro causes more deaths, destructions and heartaches than cancer....no matter your race!! :o)

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  12. Its clearly a poorly written ad, and you would think that since they spent money on health communication they would want it to be clear. As Arthur points out, the sign literally says that the number of African-Americans killed by cancer is greater than the number African-Americans killed by non-African-American people.

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  13. I have the same reaction to the ad. It's laughable. There's a whole book called something like "When Bad Ads Happen to Good Causes." This would fit right in.

    An ad about lack of early prostate cancer detection taking more black men's lives than white men's(worded much more elegantly) would have a more specific audience and outcome, especially if paired with a number where to get free screenings. A message can be simple and still be correct. Actually, the most effective ones are both.

    Another pet peeve as a nonprofit campaign director myself: Nonprofit ads on buses that have small and/or too much text. If you have to stand next to the bus to read it, chances are you're about to get run over. It's a shame that orgs will go to the expense of running ads but don't get help with design. Wasted money, wasted opportunity.

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  17. THANK YOU. There is NO WAY you are misreading; it's a t.v. ad, too. It's clearly meant to foster a sense of outrage at the racial injustice of cancer. Every time I see that commercial, I start to wonder why cancer has to be so damn racist, until common sense kicks in.

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  18. did you know that more cancer jokes are funny *statistically speaking* to those who deal specifically with the loss of a loved one or survived the disease personally, than per se, Joe Noproblem on the street? seriously, tell a few and they'll grow on you (***get it?***) its just a harder statistic to keep 'cause you can't tell by looking.

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