The Problem: Sadvertising. You know it, you dread it. Who can hear the opening strains of Sarah McLachlan’s “In The Arms Of An Angel” without reflexively tearing up at the thought of impounded puppies? Or remember when Nationwide believed nothing tops Super Bowl party nachos better than a heaping dose of crippling depression with their “Boy” spot? All kidding aside, it’s a real concern, especially for those in the healthcare space. How do you take a troubling subject and sell it in a way that doesn’t immediately aim for the tear ducts? Cossette Toronto faced this head on when they pitched the SickKids Foundation on a new way of tackling the conversation around childhood illness.
The Approach: “One of [SickKids’] biggest goals was to raise $1.3 billion by 2022 for a new hospital in Toronto,” explains Cossette’s chief creative officer Carlos Moreno. “So when we looked at what they had been doing, and we just basically said if there’s any chance for you to reach that goal, we have to really change the conversation.” Morena and his team decided to take an entirely different approach. Although the old way of communicating was effective, they needed to broaden the reach significantly. To do that, they decided to treat SickKids as a performance brand rather than a charity. “Once we started embracing that performance brand mentality, SickKids was onboard immediately,” says Moreno. “It wasn’t the usual client/agency relationship. We worked together from the beginning.” The result was a campaign called “VS,” which used the rhythm and cadence of a sporting goods commercial to push the idea of kids not suffering in silence, but fighting back. According to Moreno, “everyone started really leaning into the ‘VS’ campaign. Once you start talking about it, it’s really clear. You can see everyone’s role in it – the doctors, the nurses the parents, the patients…everyone. And you see easily how it could roll out on film and in every other medium.”
The Feel Good: Of course, there were obstacles. “We did get a little pushback in terms of…not everyone wins theirs battles,” says Moreno. “But once the campaign started to roll out, people started to stand up for the campaign on their own, without any input from us. The conversation quickly became about 10,000 to 1 standing up for the courage of the campaign.” From October to December of 2016, SickKids saw their best ever fundraising results ($57.9 million over those few months) and this week, “VS” took home a Grand Clio. If you want to join the fight and feel good doing good, head over to SickKids Foundation official site.