Post B: The Dark Side of Tanning

Australia is the home to some of the most beautiful coastlines in the world, consequently, it also has one of the highest amounts of skin cancer and mortality rates across the globe. The 1980s saw the beginnings of social marketing campaigns Australia-wide to raise awareness of the dangers of skin cancer and means to prevent it, marking the start of the ongoing efforts to prompt change in the behaviours and attitudes of the population.

Lead by the Cancer Institute of NSW, ‘The Dark Side of Tanning’ (‘DSOT’) campaign was introduced in 2007 in order to challenge pro-tanning attitudes specifically amongst young Australians between the ages of 15 and 29. Melanoma is the most common form of cancer in this demographic (Sinclair, C. & Foley, P. 2009) with the main goal of the campaign striving to eradicate the perception that a tan is healthy.

The DSOT campaign’s primary channel were 3 television ads displaying the mundane activities of young Australians both at the beach and playing footy. Following these advertisements were also posters, billboards, bus sides and bus shelters of the 3 individuals seen in the television ads. With alarming imagery of skin cells being attacked by melanoma and noteworthy slogans such as there’s nothing healthy about a tan and tanning is skin cells in trauma, the campaign successfully reached its target audience. Those aged 13-24 were more likely to recall these advertisements in comparison to the older respondents of the interviews and surveys conducted (Perez, D. 2015).

1/3 television advertisements of the DSOT campaign, featuring an Australian surfer and the risks of tanning even before you start to burn.

Across NSW, 100 interviews, along with online surveys, were conducted per week in the warmer months of November to March of 2007-11 to measure the effectiveness of the campaign. The most significant finding supported favourable change in adolescent attitudes towards desiring a suntan dropped from 60% at the commencement of the campaign to 45% by 2011 (Iannacone, M. R. & Green, A. 2014).

The particular aspect of the DSOT campaign showing Australians in typical everyday environments is a tool that can be both applied universally and to the tobacco control design. As the viewers are able to resonate deeply to what they are seeing, they are therefore prompted to make change in their lifestyle, as it has great potential to hit close to home.

Poster of the female individual featured across the DSOT campaign with a simple yet effective slogan.

Significant changes to a more negative attitude towards tanning was a success in the continuous fight against the perception of a safe and healthy tan, highlighting the importance of the mass media campaign The Dark Side of Tanning.  


Author Unknown, 2015, ‘Recent research from cancer council highlighting findings in cancer prevention’, Education Business Weekly, 6 May. <>

Cancer Institute NSW, 2018, Dark side of tanning campaign, NSW Government, viewed 20th November 2019, <>

Cancer Institute NSW, 2009, Skin cells in trauma poster, NSW Government, viewed 21st November 2019, <>

CancerNSW, 2010, There’s nothing healthy about a tan, viewed 20th November 2019, <>

Iannacone, M. R. & Green, A. 2014, ‘Towards skin cancer prevention and early detection’, Melanoma management, vol. 1, no. 1, pp. 75-84. <>

Perez, D. 2015, ‘Exposure to ‘the dark side of tanning’ skin cancer prevention mass media campaign and its association with tanning attitudes in NSW, Australia’, Health Education Research, vol. 30, no. 2, pp. 336-346. <>

Sinclair, C. & Foley, P. 2009, ‘Skin cancer prevention in Australia’, British Journal of Dermatology, vol. 161, no. 1, pp. 116-123. <>

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