The phrase ‘Slip Slop Slap’ has been ingrained into our memories as with other sun-conscious Aussie sayings such as ‘No Hat No Play’. The slogan, ‘Slip on a shirt, Slop on some sunscreen, Slap on a hat’, began as a transdisciplinary top-down mass-media campaign in the 1980s promoting sun-health for families and was soon synonymous with sun protection for everyone by the end of the next decade. It was created by the Anti-Cancer Council as funded by the Victorian Health Promotion Foundation, a fund that was created by taxing cigarettes and redirecting the money raised into health promotion and the sponsorship of sports and arts (Marks, R. 1990). What started out as a response to the need to increase the awareness of the devastating effects of skin cancer has grown into an ongoing series of campaigns set to change perceptions in individuals, communities and organisations.
Media messages are always carefully tailored with the prevailing culture and community awareness. The early introduction of the campaign was “positive, encouraging, and designed to be happy” (Montague M. et al. 2001, p. 301) with Sid the Seagull educating the ways to enjoy our wonderful climate whilst having fun. With the growing sophistication of the public’s knowledge, the campaign moved onto the next stage of providing detailed information explaining the protective methods in preventing skin cancer. This stage of the campaign was received well with adults, however, both approaches failed to reach young adults as they were perceived to be too childish and too content-heavy. Research conducted in high school subjects revealed that although the ‘Slip Slop Slap’ slogan was highly recalled by these students, the childhood associations of cartoons and jingles had lowered the perceived urgency to act. Results shown preference to anti-smoking and safe-driving campaigns with ‘shock’ value to communicate consequences. This resulted in the introduction of hard-hitting, graphic advertisements such as ‘Time Bomb’ depicting the real-life effects on real people (Paul C. et al. 2003). The analytical and reflective reactions to the results signify the early successes of the campaign. However, raising awareness of skin cancer prevention was only the first step, now change needed to be seen.
The early identifier of the campaign’s success in changing attitudes was in conducting surveys in the prevailing beach-culture of Australian lifestyle. Since the campaign was launched, the percentage of Victorians who “liked to get a suntan [decreased] from 61% in 1988 to 35% in 1998… those agreeing that ‘I feel more healthy with a suntan’ [fell] from 51% to 20%… [also resulting in] a 50% reduction in people getting sunburnt.” (Montague, M. et al. 2001, p.2-3). The program researchers understood that in order to make structural and environmental change, shifts in behaviours and attitudes needed to be made first. From then, sun protection policies have been adopted in trade unions, primary schools, local government authorities, sport and leisure organisations, as well as workplaces (Redman, K. et al. 2001). Since the beginning of the campaign, it had been found that “rates of [melanoma incidence] has slowed since” and that an estimated “43,000 skin cancers and 1,400 skin cancer deaths in Victoria [have been prevented].” (Shih, S. et al. 2017).
Through ongoing evaluation and implementation of strategies, what began as a catchy jingle has developed into the national awareness of skin cancer prevention. By understanding the issue and the community, effective campaigns are created to reduce the devastating grasp of skin cancer on the population. This is a valuable lesson for the success of public health campaigns in a range of contexts, such as the tobacco problem in Indonesia. Although this issue’s complete erradication is far in the future, it is recognised that “the job is not finished, but much has been accomplished.” (Montague, M. 2001).
Cancer Council Victoria 2010, Slip! Slop! Slap! – The original Sid the seagull video, advertisement, YouTube, viewed 18 November 2019, <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b7nocIenCYg>.
Cancer Council Victoria 2010, Timebomb – SunSmart, advertisement, YouTube, viewed 18 November 2019, <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Qt6RL6XOYw>.
Marks, R. 1990, ‘Skin cancer control in the 1990’s, from Slip! Slop! Slap! to SunSmart’, Australia’s J. Dermatol, vol. 31, pp. 1-4.
Montague, M. Roland, B. & Sinclair, C. 2001, ‘Slip! Slop! Slap! and SunSmart, 1980-2000: Skin cancer control and 20 years of population-based campaigning’, Health Education & Behaviour, vol. 28, pp. 290-301.
Paul, C. Tzelepis, F. Girgis, A. & Parfitt, N. 2003, ‘The Slip Slop Slap years: Have they had a lasting impact on today’s adolescents?’, Health Promotion Journal of Australia, vol. 14, pp 219-21.
Redman, K. Sinclair, C. & Stent, S. 2001, ‘SunSmart – Twenty years on’, Health Education & Behaviour, vol. 28.
Shih, STF. Carter, R. Heward, S. & Sinclair, C. 2017, New study shows SunSmart success as melanomas decrease in Victoria, Australia, viewed 18 November 2019, <https://www.sunsmart.com.au/about/media-campaigns/media-releases/2018-media-releases/new-study-shows-sunsmart-success.html>.