Plan Canada’s Because I am a Girl Campaign

Sustained Success (GOLD)

Client Credits: Plan Canada
Paula Roberts – Exec VP, Marketing & Development
Serena Trentini – Director, Marketing
Lori Miller – Marketing Manager
Christina Doyle – Marketing Manager
Leanne Nicolle – Director, Community Engagement
Kristy Payne – Director, Strategic Communications
Lesa O’Brien – Director, New Media
Cheryl Laing – Director, Information Management
Cathy Wallace – Director, Development
Trevor Lavigne – Interactive Specialist
Jeff Cornett – VP Donor Marketing
Petra Greenbaum – E Marketing Manager
Michelle Duggan – Director, Donor Marketing
Natalie Williams – Marketing Consultant
Meredith Burns – Marketing Intern
Audra Williams – Digital Specialist
Maya Boritz – Manager, Digital Communications
Michelle Duggan – Director, Donor Marketing

Agency Credits: Wunderkind
Syd Kessler, Creative Leader
Wahn Yoon, Team Leader & Strategist
Jacob Kessler, Partner
Cam Drynan, Account Director
Ilya Strashun, Account Manager & Senior Art Director
Gina Lijoi, Digital Project Manager
Stewart Barton, Media Planner & Buyer
Margaret Jeronimo-Andrews, Senior Art Director
Su Bundock, Copy Writer
Mark Petch, Producer & Camera - Girl News
Stephen Parker, Editor – Girl News
Evren Ozdemir, Song Writer & Producer
Jason Macfarlane, Director & Editor
Liz Dussault, Producer FamilyStyle
Joanne Shinwell, Admin Support
Julian Rudd, Head Engineer Vapor Music
Julie Geller, Digital Project Manager
Ryan Ghaeli, Media Planner & Buyer

Crossover Notes:
All winning cases contain lessons that cross over from one case to another. David Rutherford has been identifying these as Crossover Notes since CASSIES 1997. The full set for CASSIES 2013 can be downloaded from the Case Library section at

Crossover Note 1. What a Brand Stands For.
Crossover Note 2. Brand Truths.
Crossover Note 14. Refreshing a continuing campaign.
Crossover Note 23. Problem versus Solution.
Crossover Note 24. Tough Topics.
Crossover Note 33. Changing the Target Audience.

To see creative, click on the links that are embedded in the case.


Business Results Period (Consecutive Months):July 2009 – June 2012
Start of Advertising/Communication Effort: September 2009
Base Period as a Benchmark: Historical comparisons

a) Overall Assessment

Investment in girls' education may well be the highest-return investment available in the developing world.

- Chief Economist at the World Bank 


There is no tool for development more effective than the education of girls and the empowerment of women.

– Kofi Annan, former Secretary General of the United Nations

Extensive research in international development has proven that investing in girls is the single most effective way to address global poverty. [Crossover Note 2] An educated girl will share her new knowledge with her siblings and all those around her. A girl will apply her skills in a way that benefits her entire community. Girls will not only share knowledge and resources, but when given a chance to fully participate with social/economic freedom, will add to the stability of their community or region.

When you empower a girl, she will change the world.

And yet, many in Canada were still either unaware of, or felt powerless to change, the situation. It is estimated that 75 million girls around the world are denied an education because they are girls. Of the 1 billion people in the world today living on less than a dollar a day, 70% are women and girls. [Crossover Note 24]

Based on the injustices that girls face, and the undeniable power girls have to help eliminate global poverty, Plan Canada, one of Canada’s largest international development organizations, and Wunderkind launched the Because I am a Girl Campaign in 2009. The goal was (and remains) to raise awareness and funds for programs to protect, educate and empower girls in the developing world.

The challenges were considerable. We launched and sustained the campaign during the height of the economic recession when many charities were facing declining revenues. Along with this were a series of interrelated challenges that included:

  • Very low brand awareness for Plan - a brand name change from Foster Parents Plan in 2006 meant that Plan was virtually an unknown entity in the market at the outset of the campaign in 2009, hence little equity to support a new cause (4% unaided awareness for Plan in 2009). 
  • A Plan donor base that was traditionally 50+ , putting long-term sustainable fundraising at risk
  • Cause fatigue: An environment that was filled with an increasing (and astonishing) number of causes and fundraising events, dominated by disease state organizations
  • A perception that international development – and the developing world – was a “lost cause”
  • Limited and fixed marketing budgets

This led to a decision to create a multi-year campaign around Because I am a Girl

b) Resulting Business Objectives

Overall, business objectives fell into two categories:  Fundraising and Engagement.

On the Fundraising side, a number of products were developed that are “girl-focused”, such as Gifts of Hope, Girl Appeals, and the Because I am a Girl Fund. These fundraising products are dependent upon the Because I am a Girl campaign to generate awareness and donation.

Engagement was also a priority, as inspiring conversation and non-financial actions related to the issue were essential for creating a real social movement. We aimed to significantly increase web traffic and the size and participation of our social media communities, including Facebook, Twitter and blog.

Year 1:

Given the lack of precedent and learnings, Year 1 (ending June 30, 2010) was focused on creating awareness and the propensity to donate, with modest fundraising objectives:

  • Because I am a Girl-related fundraising revenue: $1 million
  • 100,000 unique web visitors

Year 2:

Due to the exceptionally positive revenue and engagement results of Year 1, more ambitious business objectives were set as follows:

  • Because I am a Girl-related fundraising revenue:  $5,230,000
  • Engagement objectives:
    • Total unique web visitors (cumulative):  291,000
    • Facebook fans:  40,000
    • Twitter followers (cumulative): 2,000
    • Blog visits (cumulative): 44,340

Year 3:

With two years of in-market activity, Year 3 business objectives sought to continue this positive momentum, and included:  

  • Because I am a Girl-related fundraising revenue: $7,452,800
  • Engagement objectives:
    • Total unique web visitors (cumulative):  400,000
    • Facebook fans:  70,000
    • Twitter followers (cumulative): 5,000
    • Blog visits (cumulative): 120,000

c) Annual Media Budget
$500,000 - $1 million

d) Geographic Area
GTA, Ottawa, Halifax, Calgary, Vancouver – with national reach on specialty TV and online advertising

a) Analysis and Insight

Prior to launch in September 2009 (Year 1) a qualitative brand mapping study by the planning arm of Wunderkind, Scientific Intelligence, revealed that Because I am a Girl must be a fresh, distinctive and inspiring “antidote” to the pity-inducing, documentary-style messaging from traditional humanitarian organizations. [Crossover Note 1] The study also indicated that the campaign needed to pivot quickly from a hard-hitting message about the plight of girls to an inspiring message about the power of girls to change the world when they’re given the chance. [Crossover Note 23] 

Subsequently, in November 2010 (during Year 2), market research firm Strategic Navigator conducted independent brand health studies that found that:

  • Although women with children showed a higher propensity to donate to BIAAG once exposed to the advertising creative (30% pre-campaign to 38% post-campaign), women without children surprisingly showed an even higher propensity and lift (37% pre-campaign to 46% post-campaign).  
  • Our target audiences favour the bold, direct, graphic approach of our messaging.

This prompted us to expand the target audiences in Year 2 to educated professional women, age 30 to 50, with or without children, and teens, age 14 to 19. We removed the parameter of having children entirely from the equation, and committed to addressing our adult female target as women, not as moms per se. [Crossover Note 33]

b) Communication Strategy

Year 1:

Our audience focus was teen girls and their moms. Therefore, our creative concepts were deliberately pop culture-friendly, bright, bold and colourful. Our media choices focused on both teen channels and partners, such as Much Music, along with mom friendly channels such as Today’s Parent. Messaging in Year One favoured single words such as “Hope” and “Power”, and the repeated “mantra”-like use of the phrase Because I am a Girl.

The digital component consisted of a microsite that focused on basic information, donation and fundraising.

Year 2 and Year 3:

The audience evolved to include teens but also educated women age 30 to 50 in professional careers.

Therefore, we developed a new iteration of the campaign that used arresting headlines and copy that declared a) the rights of girls in stark and undeniable terms; and b) immediately and vividly communicated the dramatic impact that feeding, educating and empowering a girl can have – indicating how immediate and powerful the impact of supporting a girl can be. [Crossover Note 14]

Media channels were selected that skewed 60% toward the adult female target, and ensured maximum and repeated exposures of the messaging to this audience, from home to office and back.

A new, more sophisticated website was built and launched in Year 2, to coincide with the spring wave of the campaign. It introduced more intuitive navigation, a more appealing design, considerably more content (including engaging video content designed for our professional women target), and more engaging ways to donate and fundraise. Simultaneously, a comprehensive and integrated social media strategy was implemented for Facebook, Twitter and the Because I am a Girl blog to intensify engagement, advocacy and fundraising.

All media channels continue to drive to the website, which serves as the hub for the campaign, providing efficient, effective ways for our target audiences to consume campaign information and share with their networks, thus increasing the footprint of the campaign.

a) Media Used

  • National and regional TV
  • Print (local and national - magazine / newspaper)
  • OOH (wildposters, TSAs, billboards, TTC/LRT/SkyTrain)
  • Airport broadcast television
  • Online banners and SEO/SEM
  • Radio
  • Elevator digital boards
  • Microsite
  • Social Media communities

b) Creative Discussion

In order to differentiate clearly from the “flies on eyes” messaging of the NGO category, to launch the campaign in Year 1 we made the decision to depart sharply from category convention and not use any photography in the campaign whatsoever.

All creative is text-based, inspired by the political text art of the 90s of Jenny Holzer and Barbara Kruger. Bold statements, including single words that symbolize our cause, such as “Hope”, “Power” and the “Are you the one?” call to action – were used throughout the campaign. The manifesto ad, designed to convey both the plight and the power of girls in eight simple lines, quickly became the moral and creative centerpiece of the campaign.

In Years 2 and 3, the campaign evolved further into the iconic pink and black graphic style now known to many. Messaging was carefully crafted to balance the truthful telling of the plight girls face with hope and inspiration.

For example, a series of wild postings included a set of short imperatives, designed to capture attention with their simplicity, followed by a sub-line that delivered the impact of the headline:

Feed a girl… And she’ll feed everyone around her

Educate a girl… and she’ll share her knowledge with everyone she knows

Empower a girl… and she’ll change the world

c) Media Discussion

The overall approach was to "wrap" our target audiences in the Because I am a Girl messaging in each city, making the campaign virtually impossible to go unnoticed despite a limited media budget. In particular, with professional women, we chose media that would  “follow her throughout her day” from home to office and back.

Media chosen for the campaign fell into three broad categories:

1) Media that are specific to the professional women target:
- Specialty TV for women, with national reach
- Magazine ads in publications such as EnRoute, Canadian House & Home, Toronto Life
- Transit ads in public transportation with a high proportion of working women
- Elevator digital boards in corporate buildings
- Airport advertising for the business traveler

2) Media geared more toward the youth target, such as:
- A contest and content partnership with Much Music
- Specialty TV geared toward youth, such as Degrassi
- Wild postings in urban areas with high youth and young adult traffic

3) General population media that included both our targets and many others, providing reach and awareness, including:
- OOH, such as transit/subway
- National TV PSAs

a) Sales/Share Results

The following two bar graphs represent total revenue growth (target vs. actual against advertising budget) and engagement results, followed by highlights of results in bullet form.

Total Revenue Growth-Graph-final


Engagement Results-Graph-Fin


Highlights of business results include:

  •  Total Because I am a Girl-related revenue significantly surpassed targets set each year as well as saw year over year growth increase by 82% from Year 1 to Year 2 ($3,180,694 to $5,797,417), and then again by 75% from Year 2 to Year 3 ($5,797,417 to $10,120,275).


  • Engagement results continued to climb at a steep rate. After two years of consistently exceeding our objectives we set exceptionally ambitious goals for ourselves across all measures. And while coming slightly short as a result of our own ambition, the year over year growth in engagement was significant:
    • An increase in total unique web visitors (cumulative) of 98% from Year 1 to Year 2 (141,196 to 280,629), and 44% from Year 2 to Year 3 (280,629 to 403,520).
    • An increase in Facebook fans of 132% from Year 1 to Year 2 (19,146 to 44,329), and 51% from Year 2 to Year 3 (44,329 to 66,983).
    • A 237% increase in Twitter followers from Year 1 to Year 2 (890 to 3,000), and a 90% increase from Year 2 to Year 3 (3,000 to 5,709).
    • A 224% increase in blog visitors from Year 1 to Year 2 (24,465 to 79,181), followed by a 98% increase from Year 2 to Year 3 (79,181 to 156,984).
  • And one of the most inspiring results of all:

    • By the Fall of 2011, the campaign had elicited 15,000 signatures from Canadians for an e-petition calling for the creation of an International Day of the Girl through the United Nations. This would highlight the girl issue globally. Armed with these signatures, the CEO of Plan Canada and Minister Ambrose of the Canadian Government presented to the UN in October of 2011.  In December of 2011, the United Nations formally adopted October 11th as the International Day of the Girl.

    • A declaration like International Day of the Girl creates awareness and relevance, and can be an important tool to motivate institutional donors to reflect on an issue and give more generously.

b) Consumption/ Usage Results

c) Other Pertinent Results

d) Return on Investment

a) General Discussion

The Because I am a Girl campaign launched in September of 2009 and marked the beginning of a multi-year effort. This campaign represented the single most significant new investment and marketing effort in the history of Plan Canada. Ongoing and recurring activities continued as per previous years, from DRTV programming on child sponsorship to direct mail campaigns and other direct response programs. Because I am a Girl was the only advertising-focused brand/issue campaign for Plan Canada.

All departments across Plan received no increases in their annual budgets during the three years of the campaign (2009 – 2012), and yet enjoyed significant increases in girl-focused fundraising revenue year over year. Fundraising departments consistently attributed the lift in girl-focused fundraising success to the awareness and excitement generated by the public campaign for Because I am a Girl and the halo effect it created for the organization.

Since this was a launch of a new brand that had never before been supported at Plan Canada, and was not an issue that was being heavily communicated by any other NGO in Canada, we cannot attribute the success of the campaign to factors outside of the campaign itself. Because I am a Girl results were generated by the awareness and actions inspired by the campaign.


b) Excluding Other Factors
Spending Levels:

  • The annual advertising budget (media + production) was consistently below $930,000 throughout the 3 years of the campaign and yet revenue generated was not only significant, but increased year over year.


  • Not applicable, as this was a fundraising campaign for a charitable organization.

Distribution Changes:

  • Not applicable, as per the above. Plan does not have “distribution centres” and markets purely by advertising and direct mail.

Unusual Promotional Activity:

  • There were no unusual promotional activities for Because I am a Girl.

Other Potential Causes:

  • There were no current events, major news items, major competitive campaigns against the same issue in the marketplace, or other potential causes that could explain the success of the campaign.