Ovarian Cancer Canada, Ladyballs

Cause (SILVER)
Underdog (GOLD)

Client Credits: Ovarian Cancer Canada
VP Marketing: Karen Cinq Mars
Marketing & Sponsorship Associate: Hilary Lanyon
Director of Communications: Janice Chan
Communications Associate: Arden Bagni

Agency Credits: Grey Canada
Chief Creative Officer: Patrick Scissons
Art Director: Lisa Chen-Wing
Art Director: Mark Mason
Art Director: Perle Arteta
Art Director: Marissa Mastenbroek
Writer: Sue Kohm
Producer: Karen Blazer
Producer: Terri Vegso
Producer: Lisa Smith
Producer: Deena Archibald
Production Specialist: Biko Franklin
Account Lead: Darlene Remlinger
Account team: Megan Chown
Strategist: Andrew Carty
Strategist: Lauren Scapillati
PR Agency: HYPE PR
Media Agency: Pollin8
Recording Studio: Eggplant
Visual Effects: Fort York
Post Production: Rooster
Post Production: Alter Ego
Production Company: Untitled Films
Photography: Raina + Wilson


Business Results Period (Consecutive Months):December 2015 - May 8, 2016
Start of Advertising/Communication Effort: December 6, 2015
Base Period as a Benchmark: November 2015 and prior
Geographic Area: Canada, E&F
Budget for this effort: $200,000 - $500,000

Why should this case win in the category (ies) you have entered?
“Being an underdog changes people in ways that we often fail to appreciate. It opens doors and creates opportunities and enlightens and permits things that might otherwise have seemed unthinkable.” –Malcolm Gladwell

With no screening test, vague symptoms and little medical understanding, ovarian cancer is a ‘silent killer’ taking 5 Canadian women lives everyday. Ovarian Cancer Canada (OCC), the only national organization dedicated to supporting patients, funding research and raising awareness, asked us to shine a light on this issue.

Without awareness, government funding and directed donations, cancer funding continues to be funnelled to bigger, more prevalent cancer causes with vast support networks, corporate sponsorships and significant media budgets. Outcomes for the disease have not changed in 50 years and research lags well behind that of other cancers. Without public, government and sponsor awareness, ovarian cancer fights an uphill battle in securing research dollars.

By focusing less on the clinical story and talking about ovarian cancer in a culturally relevant way, we established a breakthrough paradigm shift. Ladyballs was able to help overcome the organization’s non-existent SOV and low awareness by creating a national conversation around a killer that was not only misunderstood, but had previously never been discussed.

a) Describe the Client’s business, competition and relevant history:

Before we could even begin to start driving donations and research investment we had to get people to care.  First, we would need to engage a wider audience of Canadians – much bigger than our small but mighty survivor base and their family and friends - to want to fight a dreadful disease they knew nothing about.  But OCC didn’t have a clear vision or ‘elevator pitch’ to even start the conversation.

Cause-related competition continues to grow in prominence and support making it more difficult than ever for OCC’s voice to be heard.  With only donated media space in our plan we were a veritable David to our competitors’ Goliath spending ability.   Other cancer foundations boasted high awareness, high in-market spend levels, and significant corporate sponsorship support.  OCC just couldn’t compare to them and relied almost exclusively on private donors.  Prostate cancer’s Movember campaign had propelled that organization to $24MM raised in Canada in 2014.  For breast cancer, the Big Kahuna of women’s cancers (via the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation - just one of many breast cancer charities), revenue topped $23MM according to 2015 financial statements; with over 50% of it coming from the CIBC-sponsored and supported Run for the Cure event alone.  This competition didn’t even include the myriad of other health-related cause organizations fighting for awareness and donation, all with significant media budgets.  These included The Heart & Stroke Foundation, The Canadian Red Cross Society, and the omnipresent hospital foundations.

b) Describe the Client’s Business Issues/Opportunities to be addressed by the campaign:

Unaided awareness of the disease is frightfully low (<4%) compared to other cancers and diseases. 2015 quantitative research* revealed over 60% of Canadians claimed they were not familiar with the disease at all. Those personally affected are highly engaged with the organization, however they’re fatigued and can only give so much. Their relationship with OCC peaks quickly then wanes because of high mortality rates and the organization is left with a small survivor base to support it.  Coupled with low awareness, there was common misperception amongst Canadian women (44%) that a routine pap test could detect the disease and further, considered it a screening test, when in fact, there is no reliable screening test for ovarian cancer at all.  Others thought the HPV vaccine could prevent the disease (24%) and another quarter of the study claimed they knew absolutely nothing about the disease at all.  Additional diagnostic tests such as ultrasounds, coupled with vague symptoms, often misdiagnose the disease, resulting in cases that are frequently caught too late.  Previous smaller campaigns had focused on medical elements such as symptom awareness and used terminology which failed to break through to the public in a meaningful way.

*OCC Quantitative Study, April 2015

c) Resulting Business Objectives: Include how these will be measured:
This was an awareness campaign first and foremost, and our main objective was simple:
We wanted to get Canadians – men and women alike - to care and talk about ovarian cancer, so that women would talk to their doctors, and each other, about it and empower men to talk to the women in their lives about it.

a) What new learnings/insights did you uncover?

Our target was Canadian men and women 18+; more generally the masses whom ovarian cancer had not touched before.

Study into other charitable organizations and disease awareness campaigns revealed that success meant permeating culture with something “sticky”; something that would get remembered and repeated. We were up against moustaches, ice bucket stunts and booby balls. A taboo topic like ovaries would be tricky.

We conducted additional qualitative and quantitative research to explore how aware and comfortable people were with talking about ovaries and ovarian cancer already. Turned out not very, beyond acknowledging their existence and anatomical location. But if we considered the male equivalent (testes) we discovered their literal meaning takes a backseat to what they represent: courage and boldness. Male gonads, or “balls”, is a colloquial term that has become part of English vernacular.  In fact, “grow some balls” is such a commonly used phrase that its Collins Dictionary definition is pending. Female gonads, ovaries, were never referred to as balls, which got us thinking.

b) What was your Big Idea?

What if we positioned ovaries as female “balls”, re-appropriating the same bravery imbued on their male counterparts, in order to champion the courage it takes to fight this most fatal cancer? This bold paradigm shift would make ovaries stand for female courage and boldness or as we say LADYBALLS.

c) How did your Communication strategy evolve?

An evolved approach for OCC would mean exploring how to talk about ovaries in a way that was comfortable and culturally relevant, not clinical, like most of their previous campaigns.  A new sense of directness around an intimate topic like ovaries was required in order to get people to care about something they knew virtually nothing about or even cared to discuss.

d) How did you anticipate the communication would achieve the Business Objectives?

The “Ladyballs” platform was meant to spark a societal conversation on a body part and correlating disease Canadians weren’t comfortable discussing. We took principles of social movements and applied them to the mechanics of the idea. This encompassed generating earned media and being PR-worthy so that media, stakeholders and advocates could help push the message and play a part in the creation of many of the campaign elements.

Section IV — THE WORK
a) How, where and when did you execute it?

We launched with National English film in a :30 television PSA, a :60 cinema version and on-premise film in restaurants, bars and salons.  It brought the notion of “ladyballs” to life in a way that was relevant and real, yet inspiring. We depicted situations that a modern woman may find herself in—such as a business meeting or a social gathering—where she was forced to make brave and bold decisions. We wanted to remind women that they had balls too. Ovaries actually. And they’re currently at risk. So the conversation starter became, “do you have the ladyballs to do something about ovarian cancer?”


Print and digital ads showcased the faces of strong and assertive women of varying ages and ethnicities to show that the disease was indiscriminate.  Women with grit and determination declared their intent to talk about ovaries and ovarian cancer in a direct and unapologetic way.  Lauren Richards, a well-known and respected Canadian media professional shared her own personal survival story with the Canadian media community, challenging them to have the Ladyballs to donate media space to the cause.  More survivor stories of courage and determination soon followed  - proving that Ladyballs was a notion that both the public and the affected could rally behind.