SickKids Better Tomorrows

Events, Seasonal and Short-Term (BRONZE)

Client Credits: SickKids Foundation
Ted Garrard, President & CEO
Lori Davison, VP, Brand Strategy and Communications
Harleen Bhogal, Project Manager, Brand Strategy & Communications
Lisa Charendoff, Manager, Patient Ambassador Program

Agency Credits: J. Walter Thompson
Brent Choi, Chief Creative & Integration Officer
Ryan Spelliscy, SVP, Creative Director
Andy Brokenshire, Associate Creative Director
Cindy Habana, Art Director
Mike DeCandido, Copywriter
Raquel Rose, Senior Producer
Neil MacLellan, VP, Management Director
Sarah Leveille, Account Executive
Director: Mark Zibert
Production Company: Sons & Daughters
Post-Production: Panic & Bob; Alter Ego; Smith
Editing: Michelle Czukar
Music: Eggplant (Adam Damelin)
Media Agency: Mindshare


Business Results Period (Consecutive Months):November and December 2014
Start of Advertising/Communication Effort: November 10, 2014
Base Period as a Benchmark: November and December 2013

a) Overall Assessment

SickKids is a world leader in children’s healthcare and Canada’s leading centre dedicated to improving children’s health and home to Canada’s largest hospital-based child health research institute. With more than 10,000 staff, researchers and volunteers, the hospital sees more than 100,000 children enter its doors annually for life-saving care, and that number continues to grow.

Because SickKids had several years of high-profile fundraising campaigns that exceeded targets year-over-year, the foundation acknowledged that it was becoming challenging to outdo its own success. Additionally, new ground had been broken by ALS, who disrupted the charitable marketplace with a social activation that garnered unprecedented participation and drove record donations.

Heading into this key donation period – the holiday season – had donor expectations been reset?

b) Resulting Business Objectives

Historically, funds raised during the holiday season amounted to approximately one quarter of the hospital’s annual fiscal target. We were tasked with sustaining the financial donation benchmark set the previous holiday season, and at the same time, activating and engaging SickKids donors.

Specific objectives included:


  • $31.6 million (Match 2013 holiday fundraising total)

Donor Base Activation:

  • Increase propensity to donate amongst our target (GTA adults who donate at least $200 to charity per year)
  • Surpass the 250,000 video views achieved in the previous year’s campaign
  • Surpass the 500,000 page views achieved in the previous year’s campaign
  • Create a significant lift in Facebook engagement during the campaign period

c) Annual Media Budget
$1 - $2 million

d) Geographic Area
Greater Toronto Area (GTA)

a) Analysis and Insight

We know that SickKids campaigns need to demonstrate the leadership and excellence of SickKids, all whilst capturing and being true to the indomitable spirit of the children. We also know that to be successful in driving donations, we need to create a sense of urgency and demonstrate the impact of donations.

Further, as people go about their days during the busy holiday season, they are thinking about all sorts of things: their company parties, their kids’ holiday concerts, the gifts they need to buy, and the time they plan to spend with their loved ones. They are not thinking about the life-and-death battles that are being waged at SickKids, by sick kids.  And why would they? What is out of sight is out of mind.

Through our experience working on SickKids, we realized we had an opportunity to give prospective donors a massive dose of perspective, by showing them what sick children were going through while they were going about their own, relatively care-free days.

Driving insight:
Stepping inside the story of a SickKids family is a profound experience. It will drive a poignant empathy that comes from the recognition of the “ordinary” things taken for granted in our own daily lives.

Bringing this insight to life:
We allowed our audience to witness real time SickKids moments that delivered a jarring dose of perspective in a deeply humane and touching way.

b) Communication Strategy

In order to outdo previous successes, we were challenged to find new ways to break through and engage with current and prospective donors. So how could we find a new way to resonate with our prospects?

With Better Tomorrows, we set out to give prospective donors an unprecedented behind-the-scenes look into SickKids. We wanted them to see what patients were dealing with on a daily basis, and to challenge them to make these kids’ tomorrows as good as their own todays, by donating.

And to make it even more powerful, we set out to not only depict real time events, but to coordinate media placements in real time as well.

We documented a story a day for a total of forty-five stories in forty-five days. For nearly two months, we ran a new commercial every day to remind people what was happening in the hospital right that minute – each featuring a new patient.

So as viewers watched on television or online on November 10 for example, they learned how Taylum, a 2-year-old boy, was in need of a kidney transplant. And on the morning of December 4, they learned that 12-year-old Wahaab was in a 9-hour surgery to remove his colon cancer.

The campaign also continued outside of broadcast. We ran ‘real-timed’ print ads in local and national newspapers, so when people picked up their daily paper the morning of November 22, they learned that today at 10am, Danielle would be finishing her eighth round of chemo. 

We also developed a website to house all of the daily content and give updates when they happened and posted on social channels to enable sharing. We didn’t let potential donors look away.

a) Media Used

Media Used:

  • National TV
  • Print (Newspaper)
  • Online Banners
  • OOH (Cinema Advertising)
  • Microsite
  • Social Media

Blocking Chart:


b) Creative Discussion

With an arsenal of 45 stories over the course of 45 days, the campaign established an emotional connection by showcasing patient stories that ranged from hopeful to inspiring. This creative approach also allowed us to demonstrate how people’s donation dollars were making a difference. The videos depicted all the essential services provided from critical care to therapeutic programs (e.g. clown, music and art therapy). The diversity of the patients’ ages and stages, from newborn to teenager, provided a higher likelihood of relatability for prospective donors. 

Chris Martin of the band Coldplay even donated the rights of the song ‘Fix You’ for free.

c) Media Discussion

Over 25 media companies donated media to our cause.

The media plan was designed to dramatize and deliver the significant volume of content across all campaign channels. Our primary awareness-driving media channels were TV, cinema, print and online.  Our presence on social promoted accessibility and sharing, helping to increase views and drive click-through to donations.24898_SickKids_MediaDiscussion

a) Sales/Share Results

Better Tomorrows did its job well, resulting in a positive impact not only on donations (which went up rather than remaining stable), but also on other key measures that point to a healthy, engaged and sustainable donor base. 

Surpassed 2013 holiday season benchmark and 2014 holiday season goal of $31.6 Million by 17%, achieving a record-high amount: $37M

b) Consumption/ Usage Results


c) Other Pertinent Results

Other Pertinent Results:

Propensity to donate: 
The campaign drove propensity to donate by 13% amongst GTA residents who recalled seeing it. (Strategic Navigator – SickKids Foundation Advertising Effectiveness Research – February 10, 2015)

Video Views:
562,461 total views during the campaign period, 125% over objective (SickKids)

Facebook Engagement:
8,000 new followers (7% lift) and over 58,000 total shares, likes and comments across the 15 brand campaign-related posts (SickKids)

Website Page Views:
1.3 million (164% over objective) (SickKids)

d) Return on Investment


a) General Discussion

The campaign struck a chord with the media, resulting in incremental PR:

1.  The Globe and Mail

2.  Fast Company

3.  The Toronto Star

4. CTV

5. Strategy

6. Marketing Mag

7. Inside Toronto

8. Anne Langford Blog 

9. AdNews

b) Excluding Other Factors
Spending Levels:




Distribution Changes:


Unusual Promotional Activity:


Other Potential Causes: