Keeping our eyes and ears open…..

Category Archives: 2001-2005

Breast cancer group questions value of pink ribbon campaigns

Title: Breast cancer group questions value of pink ribbon campaigns

Author: Daniel S. Levine

Publication: San Francisco Business Times

Publication Date: October 2, 2005

Barbara Brenner is seeing red over pink. Brenner is executive director of Breast Cancer Action, a San Francisco advocacy group known within the nonprofit world as the “bad girls of breast cancer.”

That’s not to say Brenner calls National Institutes of Health Director Elias Zerhouni at three in the morning to ask him if his refrigerator is running.

Instead, what has won that moniker for the organization is its willingness to ask questions, often of the impolite sort, and encourage others to do the same.

With Breast Cancer Awareness Month upon us, consumers are being inundated with products bearing pink ribbons and a promise that a purchase will help support the fight against breast cancer.
All during October, you can eat, drink and do whatever follows biologically to help the fight against breast cancer. Quilted Northern Ultra toilet paper donates 50 cents for every proof of purchase collected and mailed in from specially marked pink ribbon packages.

Other products sporting pink ribbons include golf balls, umbrellas, pencil sharpeners, grills, watches, wine, jewelry, paint, candy, soda, pens, iPod cases, shower gel, mixers and even pink-colored Tic-Tacs.
Aside from worries that such marketing efforts trivialize the disease and that companies do a poor job of explaining how their donations will be used to fight breast cancer, Brenner believes so-called “cause marketing” is more about marketing than cause.

Link to Full Article

A cancer crusade turns contentious Some say the breast-cancer ‘industry’ has become too much of a good thing.

Title: A cancer crusade turns contentious Some say the breast-cancer ‘industry’ has become too much of a good thing.

Author: Marie McCullough

Publication: philly.com

Publication Date: September 30, 2004


In the coming days, Philadelphia’s LOVE Park fountain and the Center City skyline will turn pink.

New York’s Times Square will display a 70-foot-tall ribbon made of pink Post-it notes.

Honolulu will have contests featuring giant sculptured-fiberglass geckos, one sporting a pink lei.

And from sea to shining sea, Americans will buy things – M&Ms, bras, toilet paper, cars, you name it – knowing that a portion of the proceeds will go to “cure,” “kiss goodbye,” “target,” or otherwise conquer breast cancer.

But behind the festive fund-raising events and confident rhetoric that mark October as Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the fight against breast cancer is increasingly contentious and splintered. With at least 1,000 registered nonprofit breast-cancer organizations in the United States, there is competition – even occasional legal battles – for trademarks, sponsors, alliances, and the clout to shape political and research agendas. Some groups feel the breast-cancer movement has become too popular – a cuddly, commercialized, cash-laden crusade that is nowhere close to solving the mysteries of the deadly disease.

This week, one such group is launching a chain e-mail campaign urging Americans to “think before you pink” during what it calls “Breast Cancer Industry” month.

The e-mail, signed by feminist author and breast cancer survivor Barbara Ehrenreich, is the work of San Francisco-based Breast Cancer Action, a group calling for better coordination in funding research.

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Letter to the Editor (Abstract Only)


Title: Letters to the Editor

Author: Millie Christmon

Publication: The State Journal-Register (Springfield, IL)

Publication Date:June 19, 2004

Dear Editor,

I read with great interest the story written by Tamara Browning in the June 11th edition of the paper about the lady from Petersburg, Kathy Schwab, who is participating in the breast cancer three-day walk in support of the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. I felt compelled to let her and others know that my niece, Tereasa Christmon, is also participating in this event. She felt the need to participate in honor of a family member who contracted cancer last year.

After a course of treatment, she is currently cancer-free at this time. As a freshman in high school, Tereasa’s dearest friend lost her mother to a long- fought battle with breast cancer. Tereasa is doing this out of gratitude and the need to actively support breast cancer research.

Each walker in the event must raise at least $2,000 in donations. In a letter she wrote to me, Tereasa stated that for her, “The walking is easy; asking for the dollars is not.”



Title: Compromised?

Author: Mary Ann Swissler

Publication: Creative Loafing

Publication Date: October 23, 2003

“Editor’s Note: Last month an estimated 10,000 runners and walkers participated in the fifth annual Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure along the downtown St. Petersburg waterfront. The Komen Foundation is the most well-known national breast cancer organization, providing funds for research, education, screening and, to some extent, treatment. Its trademark pink ribbons and pink balloons have become one of the country’s most recognizable symbols, and the organization has won deserved praise for its dedication.

In the past couple of years, however, dissenting voices have begun to be heard about Komen. For some writers, like Barbara Ehrenreich (Nickel and Dimed, “Welcome To Cancerland” [Harper’s magazine]), the “pink kitsch” and sentimental aspects of the “breast cancer industry,” as she calls it, are hard to take. Others, like Sharon Batt (Patient No More: The Politics of Breast Cancer) or various feminist breast cancer organizations, say that Komen’s many corporate ties have led to a focus that is heavily weighted toward finding a medical cure for breast cancer, and away from environmental conditions causing it. The following story examines Komen’s corporate and political ties and their influence on the Komen Foundation’s direction.”

Link to Full Article

Cancer walks at a crossroads

Title: Cancer walks at a crossroads

Author: Charles Storch

Publication: Chicago Tribune

Publication Date: August 19, 2003


When it comes to walks or races to raise funds for breast cancer programs and research, toes sometimes get stepped on.

Amid growing criticism of the costs and corporate marketing associated with these events, now there is tension about the maneuvering of two large foundations behind the most ambitious of the walks.

In 1998, the Avon Foundation began backing three-day, 60-mile walks, which made the 5K races of the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation look like little girls’ play. But in spring 2002, Avon split with the controversial producer of those popular events and said it was lopping a day and 20 miles off a new series of walks. That gave Komen an opening to set Avon back on its heels.

This May, Dallas-based Komen and another public charity, the suburban Philadelphia-based National Philanthropic Trust, said they were teaming for three walks this year, each three days in duration. All would be held this November in California — including in San Francisco and Los Angeles, where two of the revamped Avon Walks for Breast Cancer would be held in the summer.

Then on Aug. 5, Komen and the trust presented a list of 10 cities for its 2004 series of Breast Cancer 3-Days. The list included all six cities, including Chicago, on Avon’s 2004 schedule, which had been announced two weeks prior. In Chicago next year, the Avon walk is scheduled for June 5-6 and the Komen and trust’s 3-Day for Aug. 27-29.

“We certainly wish everyone well in successful fundraising and finding an end to breast cancer,” said Susan Arnot Heaney, director of the Avon Foundation Breast Cancer Crusade in New York. “We do, however, feel it is a little unfortunate that the cities are so similar in their list.”

Komen and trust officials said that the overlap was coincidental and that they will try to avoid scheduling conflicts in the future. Like Heaney, they insist they are not competing for money or influence in the field of breast cancer care. And they hope to augment, not split, the pot of donations — filled, too, by innumerable other outings sponsored by other breast cancer charities.

Link to Full Article

Fund-raiser flap irks activists / Komen breast cancer walk competes with Avon’s

Title: Fund-raiser flap irks activists / Komen breast cancer walk competes with Avon’s

Author: Ulysses Torassa

Publication: SFGate.com

Publication Date: June 28, 2003

As the Avon Foundation’s two-day walk through San Francisco to raise money to fight breast cancer kicks off today, a potential competitor is being organized to support another major breast cancer charity.

It remains to be seen whether the two fund-raising events will generate more money overall for the breast cancer cause, or spread the available donations more thinly. But whatever the outcome, the prospect of having two major fund-raisers organized by national groups has angered some local activists.

“Every organization that’s doing community-based work is being challenged by the economy, and to have the two of them come into the Bay Area and take funds away is outrageous,” said Barbara Brenner, executive director of Breast Cancer Action, a San Francisco-based group.

Keenly aware of the huge amounts raised by the events, the Susan G. Komen Foundation has joined forces with another nonprofit to put on its own series of three-day walks in various cities, the first to be held from San Jose to San Francisco in November. They will be similar to the annual walks that Avon has held in recent years.

Link to Full Article

The Selling of Breast Cancer Is corporate America’s love affair with a disease that kills 40,000 women a year good marketing–or bad medicine?

Title: The Selling of Breast Cancer Is corporate America’s love affair with a disease that kills 40,000 women a year good marketing–or bad medicine?

Author: Susan Orenstein

Publication: CNN Money

Publication Date: February 1, 2003

In the summer of 2000, ice cream and frozen yogurt maker Dreyer’s decided to try to link its name to the hugely popular cause of fighting breast cancer. It had watched other companies conduct campaigns backing the search for a cure–and had seen their logos displayed at well-attended rallies and their products festooned with the cause’s signature pink ribbons. Dreyer’s figured it might sponsor the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation’s Race for the Cure events, which are highly emotional and popular–in other words, a marketer’s dream. But when Dreyer’s approached Komen, it ran into an unexpected snag: Yoplait was already a big sponsor and had an exclusive contract to be the only yogurt manufacturer involved in the races. Dreyer’s, the Komen people suggested, could create some sort of in-store promotion, but it was frozen out of the high-profile Komen events. Dreyer’s wasn’t interested in in-store promos. “We would have been out of the loop,” says Julie Linting, who handles the ice cream maker’s special promotions. “It wasn’t worth our while to do that.”

Dreyer’s had just encountered one of the many pitfalls in the increasingly crowded and competitive realm where business and charity meet–and discovered, as many companies have, that people play rough in there. More and more, U.S. businesses see tying their corporate identities to good causes as a powerful marketing tool, and breast cancer has become the queen of all good causes. It generates a staggering array of promotions and company tie-ins: During Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October, for instance, you could “Cook for the Cure” using a pink KitchenAid mixer, “Clean for the Cure” with a Eureka vacuum cleaner, be “Fit for the Cure” through a custom Wacoal bra fitting, “Sip for the Cure” with the Republic of Tea’s pink grapefruit green tea blend, and “Charge for the Cure” with your American Express card. You could’ve shopped for the cure until you dropped.

Link to Full Article

The Marketing of Breast Cancer

Title: The Marketing of Breast Cancer

Author: Mary Ann Swissler

Publication: AlterNet

Publication Date: September 16, 2002

“Judy Brady has little use for the limelight. Yet, as someone with a lot on her mind, she has much to say about what she terms “the marketing of breast cancer.” One of the worst examples, she says, is the Dallas-based Susan G. Komen Foundation and its annual fundraiser, the 5K Race for the Cure.

Now held year-round in 110 U.S. cities and abroad, the festivities offend Brady and the group Toxic Links Coalition. The races, they say, merely focus women on finding a medical cure for breast cancer, and away from environmental conditions causing it, the problems of the uninsured, and political influence of corporations over the average patient.”

Link to Full Article

CONFRONTING CANCER; Advocates Strive to Defeat Cancer but Disagree on Methods

Title: CONFRONTING CANCER; Advocates Strive to Defeat Cancer but Disagree on Methods

Author: Sheryl Gay Stolberg

Publication: New York Times

Publication Date: April 9, 2002

When senators convened a hearing in February on the effectiveness of mammograms, it was only natural that they would call Fran Visco to testify.

At 54, Ms. Visco, president of the National Breast Cancer Coalition, is widely regarded as Washington’s most powerful advocate for women with the disease. She has almost single-handedly persuaded lawmakers to appropriate millions for research. To do otherwise would be political suicide, they have learned from Ms. Visco and her vocal coalition of more than 600 member organizations and 70,000 people.

”For legislators,” Joann Schellenbach, a longtime official of the American Cancer Society, said, ”Fran is the spokeswoman for what they see as the advocacy community.”

But on mammography, there is little community among the advocates. Most embrace the government’s recommendation that all women older than 40 undergo routine screening. But not Ms. Visco. She and her coalition advise women to study the benefits and risks of screening and then decide for themselves.

Link to Full Article





Publication: Edmonton Sun (Alberta, Canada)

Publication Date: December 14, 2001

As part of its wrenching restructuring, Ford Motor Co. is eliminating its seven-year-old women’s marketing and product office.

The pioneering office influenced product design as it pushed for such female-friendly features as adjustable pedals and sleeping-baby interior lights. It also inspired unusual concept vehicles such as the Windstar Maytag minivan and linked the automaker with the fight against breast cancer through its support of the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure.

“They have eliminated the whole department,” said Linda Lee, who manages the women’s office at Ford. “It’s the end of an era. But the company has challenges right now. They are making tough decisions.”

Ken Zino, executive director for Ford strategy and brand communications, said the move would not affect Ford’s commitment to Race for the Cure or eliminate the Ford Women’s Consumer Insight Team, a 500-member internal focus group that provides early critiques of new cars and trucks.

Ford lost $1.4 billion in the last two quarters and estimates operating losses of $900 million in the current quarter. To curb the red ink, Ford is preparing a far-reaching reorganization that could result in layoffs of as many as 10,000 white-collar workers and eventual plant closings.

The women’s marketing office will be phased out by the end of the month. When asked if Ford was losing a powerful symbol in the eyes of female consumers, Zino replied: “We’re more interested in results, not symbolism.”

He added: “The office did groundbreaking work (but) we don’t need it as an appendage. It’s now an integral part of the Ford product development system. Each team can use the research and tools that the office developed. We’re comfortable with this approach (and) things like the Race for the Cure are stronger than ever.”