B2C | Kræftens Bekæmpelse

What’s the Second Biggest Cause of Cancer? Exactly. That’s What Sunrise Helped The Danish Cancer Society Change

Do you know what the second biggest risk factor for cancer is? If not, you’re far from the only one. Given how few people know that being overweight is the second biggest risk factor for cancer, the Danish Cancer Society wanted to create a campaign to bring awareness to the issue. But while awareness is a step in the right direction, real progress comes via actionable solutions. Through a multi-channel campaign, we seized attention with far more than a few healthy recipes.

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Becoming overweight often creeps up on you, ½-2 kg a year. The causes of being overweight are many and complex and far from the sole responsibility of the individual. It is rather more the result of a complicated interplay of social, cultural, psychological, metabolic and genetic factors. Furthermore, all research shows that obesity and severe obesity are difficult to treat – weight loss is a constant challenge and it is also very difficult to maintain an ideal weight.

Being overweight is actually one of the greatest social and health challenges of our time. In 2017, 51% of Danes were overweight and 17% were obese. If current developments continue, approximately 66% of the adult population will be overweight by 2045, of which 30% will be obese.

We need to do something about it.

Being overweight increases the risk of 13 different cancers and is actually the second biggest risk factor for cancer. Yes, you read that correctly – there are just very few who know about it, and that’s exactly what The Danish Cancer Society wanted to address.


The Danish Cancer Society wanted to develop a campaign that could inform people about the relationship between being overweight and cancer. The campaign had to get the target group involved in the issues and reflect on society’s responsibility in relation to the development of being overweight. It also had to highlight the importance of portion sizes and our general attitudes to the intake of food and drink.


Nobody knows about the issue
Only 5% of Danes know the connection between being overweight and cancer when asked independently – getting the message across would be a real challenge. Finding the right campaign grip for such a broad primary target of all 30-65 years olds was also going to be a mammoth task.

What were the objectives of the campaign?
The Danish Cancer Society had many objectives with the campaign:

  1. Help people recognize being overweight is a health issue, not an individual aesthetic problem
  2. Engage people in the overweight debate
  3. Become aware of the main causes of obesity

It was important to recognize that being overweight is a really difficult issue to deal with.

It’s neither fun to hear nor talk about. Therefore, it was crucial that we avoided stigmatizing people who are already overweight by addressing the issue of weight loss, but instead focus on avoiding further weight gain and maintaining one’s current weight. It should be clear that it is always useful to do something, and it is never too late.

It was crucial not to “blame the victim” as being overweight is not only the responsibility of the individual, but a combination of social, cultural, economic as well as personal issues. The campaign had to speak directly to the target audience and meet them when and where they are receptive to the message in a way that would motivate and engage them.


Sunrise had to deal with a complex problem that is always an emotionally charged, controversial issue. A single commercial was not going to be enough to create a change.

Phase 1:
To start with a larger PR campaign was launched, where we got the media interested in the Danish Cancer Society’s huge research and analysis project. There were results in the report that first and foremost had to be shared with the Danish public. Namely the fact that being overweight is the second biggest risk factor for cancer.

Phase 2:
Once the media had grasped this story, we could begin the next phase of the PR strategy: Specifically, the cause of rising obesity. One of the main reasons for obesity is that portion sizes and package sizes of high-energy foods and snacks have been growing, especially over the last 20 years. Larger portions and packages make us eat more, and at the same time, studies from the UK show that large purchases (and offers) encourage additional consumption and not savings.

Phase 3:
Almost a year was spent developing the campaign, which went through many suggestions, thoughts and ideas. We had also spent a lot of time analysing and trying to understand why it was so difficult to talk about obesity and cancer.

The right front figure

One thing was very clear. We needed a brave person who dared to stand up and tell everyone they weren’t the slimmest anymore either. Someone who could penetrate the target audience and show that obesity sneaks up on you pound by pound, here and there over the years. This is the case for us all, whether we know it or not.

It was actually difficult to find the right person for this role. Who would be the right person to talk about this difficult topic in a campaign movie that, via Facebook, would reach all corners of Denmark? Our conversations with the target audience told us that we did not need to hear the message from an eel slim fitness guru. It was extremely important that it was a person who was like most Danes are, and easily relatable.

Of course, finding the right person was extremely difficult, because not everyone is brave enough to show themselves in a shirt that’s slightly too tight, or bare their stomach and tell the world that it’s hard to keep their weight down. But when Anders W. Berthelsen heard about the idea, he jumped at it in right away – everyone at Sunrise and The Danish Cancer Society were delighted. Anders himself admitted that a few more pounds that he could really afford had been gained around the waist…

Offering solutions

It was crucial that the campaign not only drew attention to the problem, but also tried to provide a solution. We’ve all read countless low-fat recipes, diet books, and heard good tips on exercise and healthy habits. So, something else was needed.

A digestible, relatable campaign site

The team had to come up with an idea for the campaign site that would resonate with the target group’s daily lives and be present when they needed it the most. That’s why we developed the “Et ufedt budskab” campaign site. The site can be linked to easily from all digital touchpoints offering different types of engaging content to involve site visitors.

Of course, the campaign film can be seen on the site, but also on offer is an array of accessible, relatable and digestible facts about how to keep the weight down. Each piece of advice is phrased as a call-to-action question such as, “Do you stock snacks in the kitchen cupboard?”, making it natural to click further and find out more. Once a question is clicked on, extra information about the affect this can have on your weight and helpful advice on an alternative action is then offered.

There is also the opportunity to measure your height, weight, waist and hip size to determine your BMI and whether you are in fact a healthy weight. Furthermore, detailed facts about the risk of cancer from being overweight are also explained in another section of the website, and finally relevant podcasts are linked to for further encouragement with maintaining a healthy weight in the long term.

Importantly, the site provides information without pointing the finger of blame – enabling people to ponder the subject and make their own decision on how to maintain a healthy weight with all the facts and relevant advice in front of them.

Do you want to hear more?
Contact CCO and Senior Partner
Mikkel Heideby
+45 20 25 30 05 or mhe@sunrise.dk

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