Understanding Campaign

Events, Seasonal and Short-Term (BRONZE)

Client Credits: CAMH
Darrell Louise Gregerson, President, & CEO
Linda Quattrin, Associate VP, Communications & Donor Relations

Agency Credits: DentsuBos Inc.
Andy Manson, Creative Director
Steven Kim, Art Director
Devon Macdonald, VP Engagement Planning
James Sauter, VP Client Service Director and CRM Director
Lauren Bull, Account Supervisor
Sheri Rogers, VP Media Director
Cameron Moffat, Producer
Shelley Lewis, Director
Panic & Bob, Post Production
Suneeva, Production Company


Business Results Period (Consecutive Months):November 2013-January 2014
Start of Advertising/Communication Effort: November 2013
Base Period as a Benchmark: 2012

a) Overall Assessment

Mental Health is quickly becoming the most talked about issue in public health.  In Canada, Mental Health is ranked 3rd as the most important cause in need of support.  The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, CAMH, is Canada’s largest mental health and addiction teaching hospital as well as one of the world’s leading research centres for addiction and mental health. CAMH combines clinical care, research, education, policy development and health promotion.to help transform the lives of people affected by mental health and addiction issues.


CAMH plays a leading role in transforming society’s understanding of mental illness and addiction.  In 2012, CAMH launched the “Defeat Denial” Campaign which challenged people to stop and think about the ways that they dismissed the signs and cries for help. The campaign was a success on many fronts – it got noticed and got people talking. Results from the campaign indicated that the public did not understand mental illness and perceived it as a dead end. This lead to our current mandate about challenging and shifting the dead-end notion through understanding.

b) Resulting Business Objectives

A significant portion of the public sees mental illness as a hopeless cause. In order for the Center of Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) to achieve their goal of social change they need to breakdown the stigma and make people realize mental illness is not a dead end, and that CAMH is integral to preventing and providing solutions to this cause.

The “UNDERSTANDING CAMPAIGN” set out to achieve 3 core objectives: 1) To increase awareness of how untreated mental illness affects more people in more ways than most of us realize. 2) To increase understanding of mental illness and CAMH as the place of hope by generating real conversations.  3) To position CAMH as the leading hospital for mental health in Canada.

Unlike many not for profit campaigns that have the ultimate goal of increasing donations – CAMH had a different objective. They realized that people would not donate to causes they did not understand.  The goal for the Understanding campaign was simply to increase overall understanding of mental illness and how there is hope for those living with it. Once people understand the cause and see hope, they will be more open to donating. The success was to be measured against consumers’ shifts in perceptions and familiarity with Mental Illness and CAMH.  



CAMH Activation Process

c) Annual Media Budget
$1 - $2 million

d) Geographic Area
The Understanding Campaign ran in the Greater Toronto Area.

a) Analysis and Insight

Our 2012 campaign highlighted a significant lack in the public’s understanding of the cause, yet when surveyed on the importance of mental health, the cause ranks 3rd. When comparing funding levels among the top causes, mental health falls significantly behind other leading causes.  These 2 insights were core to our strategy.  We resisted the pressure to tackle awareness, understanding, and donations opting for a more focussed approach on understanding with the belief that if we can build understanding, it will lead to more sustainable donations down the road.

CAMH is a brand that comes to life when it uses stories. Mental illness is best understood when told through the stories of people living with it, people living with those affected by it and individuals working towards improving it. 

We wanted to build an understanding by generating conversations – on the streets, in offices, in social forums, on twitter, and on Facebook. We focused on demonstrating how mental illness and addiction touches more people in more ways than anyone realizes. The direction was to spark real conversations around mental illness – this meant not hiding from the harsh realities of the potential severe outcomes if left untreated. 

b) Communication Strategy

To change this widely held belief that mental illness only affects the individuals and families of those afflicted, the campaign demonstrated the ripple effect of untreated and treated mental illness. We focussed on five prevalent conditions: schizophrenia, alcoholism, bipolar disorder, depression and children with mental illness. These 5 disease states positioned CAMH as the leading hospital and broaden the conversation.  No other organisation can speak knowledgeably across this spectrum of mental health. Each condition was presented in an unadorned, factual, honest manner designed to open the public’s eyes and minds in order to motivate open, honest conversation.

We developed a 360 degree campaign using television, print, and out of home to build awareness and start the conversation.  Digital and social was used to deepen the conversation and engage over a longer period of time.  PR was also used to build awareness and amplify the conversation. 

a) Media Used


  • Television
  • Digital
  • Social
  • Out of Home
  • Newspaper

Please refer to media blocking chart for overview of media used.17866_CAMH_Media_Investment


b) Creative Discussion

The Understanding Campaign ran in the GTA from 11 November 11th -  to December 11th, 2013 with some additional pro-bono media through December 2013 and January 2014.  It educated the public about 5 basic mental illness, revealing the raw consequences of each if left untreated as well the hopeful possibilities if treated.

The Campaign targeted adults 18+ area via traditional, digital and social media.  The creative executions were tailored for each media type to tell both sides of the story for any given illness.

The campaign was social by design.  The use of hashtags represented a pneumonic to initiate a conversation and drive understanding.  A microsite was the hub of the campaign, where each illness had its own forum. Visitors could get help or offer help. Each hashtag represented a different way the illness can affect you or society as a whole. Visitors could also share their understanding of each illness with their social networks. Each interaction can help get the facts about mental illness out in the open while growing CAMH’s community at the same time. Visitors were driven to the site by a multi media, multi platform campaign including newspaper, transit, TV, online banners, YouTube content, Facebook ad units and weekly social content.

Finally, but most importantly, we introduced a new tag for the CAMH logo to highlight and establish their leading position in Mental Health.  We added Canada’s Leading Mental Health Hospital. This not only instantly positioned CAMH as the leader in an emerging category, but also created pride amongst employees and staff they are part of something great.


Please see below (and also attached for creative executions). Note - TV spots are included as attachments, as they could not be embedded into the case.

















c) Media Discussion

CAMH is different from other mental health organisations in that they offer solutions and treat the illness.  To highlight this, we used media placements to tell both sides of the story for each featured illness.  TV spots ran back to back, first telling what could happen to an individual if they let their illness go untreated, then what could happen if they received treatment.  Transit shelter units were placed in the same way.  One side showing treated, the other showing untreated.  Newspaper would show untreated on the right hand side of the page, and then treated show on the right hand side of the following page.  All messages signed off with the new CAMH logo.


a) Sales/Share Results

The Understanding campaign was an important initiative of CAMH’s strategic direction to drive social change and the results confirm that the campaign performed positively on many fronts.  The Campaign expanded the CAMH social community, increased the public’s understanding of mental illness, and influenced people’s perceptions and attitudes towards mental illness. 

We measure the campaign through a post awareness study, accompanied with digital and social metrics.

Some of the key highlights are as follows:

  • Among those that saw the advertising, there is greater familiarity of the role CAMH plays. On key roles such as hospital, educate public, research, and advocate, research showed a 5% lift.  It was clear that the ads positively influenced people's knowledge of our roles.
  • Even though our media investment was half of the 2012 amount, 43% recall seeing the ads that confirms an effective media mix. The change in our media mix, in conjunction with the powerful messaging, and effective use of social media contributed to the success.
  • From a digital perspective the campaign microsite averaged approximately 1000 viewers per day – whereby increasing the exposure to the effect of mental illness. Facebook community size increased by 340%, and engagement level increased by 130%. Total Facebook and Twitter shares was 1,071 for the duration of the campaign.
  • Among those that saw the advertising, 60% took away that help was available. Ads were helping people realize mental illness is not a dead end.
  • The raw and real stories struck a cord with many and have been powerful in changing perceptions and attitudes towards mental health than last year’s campaign (11% increase vs last year).  The research also showed more people had a positive impression of those living with a mental illness after seeing the ads (9% increase vs last year).
  • Over 80% of people would recommend CAMH or would seek care at CAMH.
  • 64% are likely to donate after seeing the campaign.  This positions CAMH well for future fundraising efforts.

Research and marketing metrics aside, this campaign challenged CAMH’s position on the tone and manner in which mental health is communicated.  To truly rid society of the harmful stigma that cripples progress in mental health, we need to get comfortable speaking in real terms. We feel this campaign was a first step in this direction. 


Please see below for key research results. Attached to the case are additional research reporting to support the case.


b) Consumption/ Usage Results

c) Other Pertinent Results

d) Return on Investment

a) General Discussion

This was CAMH’s most successful campaign to date. It is evident that the power of a big idea, powerfully executed can create dramatic impact. No other marketing efforts were executed during this period, leading us to make the direct connection that the advertising investment and community response drove understanding and lead to consumer shifting their perceptions of Mental Illness while increasing their familiarity with CAMH.  The research demonstrated increases across all key metrics. The causal link between advertising and results is both direct, and clear.

b) Excluding Other Factors
Spending Levels:

No other media investment was in market at the time of this campaign.


Does not apply.

Distribution Changes:

Does not apply.

Unusual Promotional Activity:

No other media or promotional activity occured during this campaign.

Other Potential Causes: