The study assessed whether a mass media campaign could encourage women who were overdue for a Papanicolaou (Pap) test to have one, without prompting unnecessary early re-screening. A telephone survey of a representative sample of 1000 Victorian women aged 25-65 years assessed recall of the advertisement and intention to act after seeing it. The television advertisement was recalled by 61.5% of women. Significantly more who said 'I mean to have a test every two years, but I usually leave it longer' indicated they would have a Pap test more often as a result of seeing the advertisement (63%), than women who had Pap tests every 1 (6%) or 2 (12%) years. Negative binomial regression analysis on data from the Victorian Cervical Cytology Registry from the middle of 2002 to the end of 2004 showed that during the campaign the number of Pap tests conducted increased by 18% (coeff = 0.169, df < 0.029). The rate increased most among those due or overdue for a Pap test. In a population with a high level of awareness of cervical screening, it is possible to run a mass media campaign to encourage screening which is specific to women whose test is due or overdue.