Humans for Humans

Best Insight (BRONZE)

Client Credits: Raising the Roof
Raising the Roof
Carolann Barr – Executive Director
Arundel Gibson – Director of Development
Caitlin Boros – Marketing and Communications Manager

Agency Credits: Leo Burnett
Chief Creative Officer: Judy John
Creative Director: Judy John, Lisa Greenberg, Sean Ohlenkamp
Group Creative Director: Steve Persico, Anthony Chelvanathan
Copywriter: Steve Persico
Art Director: Anthony Chelvanathan
Digital Designer: Sean Perkins
Developer: Jacqueline Adediji
Flash Developer: Chad Elston
Agency Producer: Franca Piacente, Kim Burchiel
Director: Angie Bird (OPC/Family Style)
Photographer: Viktor Cahoj (OPC/Family Style)
Group Account Director: Natasha Dagenais
Account Supervisor: Kayla Osmond
Planner: Lisa Hart
Project Manager: Faran Qureshi
Production Company: OPC/Family Style
Executive Producer: Harland Weiss, Liz Dussault
Director of Photography: Viktor Cahoj
Producer: Michelle Woodward
Casting: Shasta Lutz
Editing Company: Rooster Post Production
Editor: Izzy Ehrlich, Moe Ismail
Producer: Melissa Kahn
Transfer/Online: Alter Ego/Fort York
Producer: Tricia Hagoriles, Ernie Mordak, Amanda Lariviere
Music Company: The Eggplant
Producer: Rocco Gagliese, Nicola Treadgold
Sound Mixer: Nathan Handy
Media Agency: M&K Media
Partner/Planner: Julie McIlroy, Niamh Barry

Total 1820 Words


Business Results Period (Consecutive Months):February 27th – May 31st 2015
Start of Advertising/Communication Effort: February 27th 2015
Base Period as a Benchmark: March – April 2014

a) Overall Assessment

Over 200,000 Canadians experience homelessness, but in a world with endless issues, concerns, and causes, the homeless often go ignored. Most people perceive those living with homelessness as people who’ve made poor life decisions, who are lazy, or abuse drugs or alcohol. However, in reality, these are regular people who’ve fallen on tough times, suffered abuse, are mentally disabled, or have grown up without support or guidance.

We were tasked with creating a campaign that portrayed the everyday struggles that people living with homelessness are faced with, and to dispel the misconceptions associated with them.

We used the “mean tweets” phenomenon that was a viral trend on social media to bring our message to life in a culturally impactful way.

Raising the Roof – a not-for-profit organization dedicated to long-term solutions for Canada’s homeless – leveraged this social trend to give the homeless an opportunity to respond to the typically heartless and brutally negative questions and comments posted online. Through the Humans For Humans campaign, we sought to dispel the common misconceptions people have about those who are experiencing homelessness and drive donations.

This case will prove how Raising the Roof attracted millions of video views, sparked thousands of important conversations both online and offline, and, crucially, increased donations by over 400%.

b) Resulting Business Objectives

Make a positive impact despite having zero media budget

Our business objectives were simple:

• Dispel the misconceptions surrounding those living with homelessness

• Increase donations to Raise the Roof

c) Annual Media Budget
$0 - $50,000

d) Geographic Area

a) Analysis and Insight

People forget that the homeless are human beings too

With 235,000 Canadians experiencing homelessness each year 1, encounters with the homeless are an everyday occurrence for most urban Canadians. Day after day, they pass the same unfortunate people, in the same clothes, saying the same thing over and over, “Can you spare some change?”

After weeks, months, or even years of exposure, we become desensitized to the issue of homelessness. The homeless start to blend in, becoming almost invisible.

And while some grow desensitized, others have a much more harmful and destructive reaction.

People forget these are sons, daughters, mothers, and fathers…and they feel love, pain and gratitude like we all do. They’re human beings, and like any human being, they deserve to be acknowledged as one and treated with a basic degree of human dignity and respect.

A tremendous amount of research exists on the subject of prejudice between human beings but one study in particular, from the Department of Psychology at Princeton University, spoke directly to our challenge. In this study, they explored how humans evaluate each other on two primary characteristics – “warmth” and “competence.”

Social groups who rank very low in both warmth and competence often evoke feelings of disgust, and in extreme cases, are not perceived as human beings at all. Unfortunately, these are traits that are often perceived to be lacking in the homeless, which leads to them being viewed with a level of contempt and disgust. Ultimately, the homeless are subconsciously dehumanized and seen as objects, rather than as actual human beings.2

The reality, however, is that the majority of people living with homelessness are not lazy, crazy, substance-abusing sidewalk obstacles.

The truth is they are military veterans, mentally disabled, victims of domestic abuse, or people who were forced grow up without the support and guidance many of us take for granted.

We needed to set the record straight, and educate people on the true hardships that many homeless people face by giving them a voice and by showing the human behind the homeless.

b) Communication Strategy

We needed to launch a creative campaign that depicted the reality of the struggles that people living with homelessness are faced with on a day-to-day basis, and dispel the misconceptions that surround them.

To bring this to life in a relevant way, we leveraged the “mean tweets” phenomenon that was a viral trend on social media.

We couldn’t tell our audience to care, or show them why they should.

Those campaigns are numerous and often increasingly ineffective due to well-documented ‘cause’ and ‘appeal’ fatigue amongst people. We needed to help people understand the specific problems that people living with homelessness face, and evoke empathy and a desire to help. From our research, we knew that the typical non-profit ads of the past focused too much on being clever, and not enough on reality. The end result is creative work that leverages abstraction, imagery, and humour, which are far too removed from reality to evoke the necessary understanding of empathy tosell a cause. We needed a message that was shocking, thought provoking, shareable and real, and ultimately led to a positive behaviour change. A very tall order indeed.

We encouraged people to take part in changing the conversation, by giving people experiencing homelessness the compassion and assistance they need to positively change their life.

1 The State of Homeless in Canada 2014
2 Is Prejudice “Hard-Wired”? (Psych Central News)

a) Media Used

We used the following combination of traditional, digital, and social media to bring our campaign to life:

• TV: 15 spot

• Social: Organic Facebook & Twitter Posts

• Digital: YouTube Pre-roll Ads, Display Banners

• OOH: Wild postings

b) Creative Discussion

The Idea: Homeless people read mean tweets

On Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, ‘mean tweet’ videos were becoming a sensation. Originated by talk show host Jimmy Kimmel, clips of celebrities reading mean things about themselves instantly gained viral success. While celebrities get a lot of praise for their talents, not all fan correspondence is friendly, or even polite. Nonetheless, we don’t mind having a good laugh at their expense, because at the end of the day, they’re still rich and famous.

The same is not true when negative tweets – some supposedly meant to be funny – are directed at people struggling with homelessness. These are people who are just trying to stay alive and are completely incapable of defending themselves.

The idea was simple - flip the concept of ‘mean tweets’ on its head

We asked homeless people to read the cruel tweets and comments that people were posting online about them, see their reaction, and give them an opportunity to respond to the posters.

Up to this point, due to limited budgets, we had had to rely on secondary research, but to uncover the true fuel for our campaign, our digital strategist and social analyst created a customized search query to scour social networks to find any and all relevant posts related to, or directed at, people living with homelessness.

What we found was both heart wrenching and shockingly ignorant.

“I hate when homeless people ask for money just to buy drugs, like damn, feed yourself.”

“Never understood why homeless people smell of piss when you can literally piss anywhere.”

“Where do homeless people charge their iPhones?”

While a portion of the conversation expressed some empathy towards those living with homelessness, particularly during the winter months, an inhumanely large volume of the conversation contained disturbing comments that validated the common misconceptions that many people had.

We knew exposing people to these mean tweets wouldn’t change peoples’ perceptions about the homeless – 140 mean characters, who cares? So to make the extent and impact of the prejudice more real, we worked with the Raise the Roof organization to involve real people who were, at that moment, currently suffering from homelessness and had them read mean tweets explicitly directed towards them.

As one would expect, there was shock, disbelief and tears on the part of the homeless as to how wrong, unkind and hurtful the general public’s perceptions of them were.

c) Media Discussion

With the scope of the challenge, we knew we had to take it one step further.

We decided that rather than simply having them read the tweets, we would have them respond. This would give our audience a chance to hear real stories, from real people who were currently living on the streets.

To tell these stories, we looked to media that could get us the most reach, while still allowing for a personal connection. We knew most people wouldn’t give panhandlers the time of day, so we had to create an opportunity for them to speak on a platform that would reach a broad audience.

Through the use of donated media, we were able to communicate our message across a number of media. Online, we leveraged digital display ads and pre-roll videos, in addition to over 40 news outlets who covered the campaign. In each case, we drove people to microsite, which featured 33 videos. These included homeless people reading mean tweets and responding to questions.

Additionally, wild postings were used to place the messages contextually and challenge people’s misperceptions of the homeless exactly where they’re formed: the street.

a) Sales/Share Results

By dispelling the misconceptions that surround homelessness, through a topically relevant creative execution, we were able to change people’s perception from disinterested and disengaged, to empathic and understanding. As a result, we were able to reach a large audience through social virality, and increase the audiences’ propensity to share by fostering a feeling of empathy with those who are suffering from homelessness.

• RTR YouTube channel gathered over 1.5 million views. Prior to the campaign, the RTR YouTube channel had just 22,925 channel views.

• Over 26,000 hours of content was watched online during the three month campaign - nearly 20x more content than the previous 5 years combined.

• Humans for Humans content had an 88% audience retention rate vs. average YouTube retention rates of 40-50%.

• Donations increased +415% during the course of the campaign, helping improve the lives of those in need.

b) Consumption/ Usage Results

N/A. Raising the Roof does not sell a product or service, but is a service organization, so consumption and usage is not applicable to this case.

c) Other Pertinent Results

None. Raising the Roof does not have the financial resources like commercial brands to run continuous or cumulative sample attitudinal trackers. Nor were we able as an agency to negotiate free racking services for the pro bono client. Raise the Roof is a ‘passion client’ for Leo Burnett Toronto so all services are provided free of charge.

d) Return on Investment

Canadians who viewed our videos and tweets, with the hashtag #humansforhumans, helped to amplify the campaign -generating 12M earned impressions on Twitter.

a) General Discussion

The effects of the communications, on both engagement with the content and changes in attitude and behaviour evidenced by donation increases, is clear. Previous to this campaign effort, engagement with Raise The Roof content was minimal. And previous to the campaign airing, donations were flat. The above results clearly indicate a positive effect on both content engagement and active positive behaviour towards solving homelessness in the form of donations. See results section.

b) Excluding Other Factors
Spending Levels:

All media was donated


This campaign does not sell or promote a specific product so pricing had no effect on behavioural shift.

Distribution Changes:

The campaign is focused on shifting societal attitudes and behaviours, not selling product of any kinds, so distribution is not a factor in results.

Unusual Promotional Activity:

No additional paid or unpaid support beyond the campaign was in-market to raise awareness of the issues, attitudes and behaviours around the issue of homelessness.

Other Potential Causes: