The brains behind Sick Kids VS Apathy


It is no secret that Brock University brings the best opportunities to its students. Most recent efforts included the Grant Dobson Case Competition and the Terry O’Malley Lecture. Created by St. Catharines native and advertising icon Terry O’Malley. The lecture honours O’Malley’s legacy as one of the most legendary creative talents in modern Canadian advertising. This year marks the 17th anniversary of the Communications, Popular Culture and Film Department brought industry leaders, Peter Ignazi and Carlos Moreno to give the keynote speech.

Ignazi and Moreno are the brains responsible for the Sick Kids VS Apathy Campaign. The O’Malley lecture gave Ignazi and Moreno to unpack the workings and motivations behind this project. This campaign, in spite of its tremendous success received a considerable amount of controversy in Canadian society and world wide. Ignazi and Moreno identified apathy as the biggest obstacle any organization encounters.

The Sick Kids Foundation raises $140 million plus annually and is one of the top three children’s hospitals in the world. Moreno and Ignazi understood that building a brand for this charity would be integral to its success and viability. Fundraising is viewed as storytelling and lends credibility and opens doors. This creates pride of association for donors, attracts talent (researchers) and this brand affinity is important to encourage donations.

Ignazi and Moreno outline four rounds of the journey to building a brand: motivate action, attract new audiences, results and key learnings. The first step in building the Sick Kids VS campaign was deepening engagement with the current audience. The campaign sought to engage empathy within people for the brand and hospital. Their efforts proved to be an  success! The campaign raised : $37 million in one month, this was more than they raised within 42 years of operations other contributions included : Coldplay, of their song ‘Fix you’ and Ryan Reynolds endorsing the campaign. Sick Kids went viral on social media over 45 days, 45 kids and their stories were highlighted included the story of Kael, which went viral on social media. In further motivating action, and illustrating the impact of monetary donations. The campaign released ‘update’ videos of children such as Kae and in order to see how he is doing today, the video would pause and to continue viewing, a donation had to be made. This was all done via social media and in week one all six stories were released through hitting the target donor. This ignited social engagement and caught national and international media.

Why change? Sick Kids still needs $1.3 billion over the span of five years, citing infrastructure, technology and equipment upgrades. In order to attract new audiences the ambition was to tell a different side of the Sick Kids story in a way that makes the community sit up and take notice. The approach ? “Sick Kids vs the greatest challenges in child health”

This involved heroic shots of the kids plastered the walls and streets of Toronto, in and out of the hospital. A Twitter campaign as well as heartfelt video ad campaigns highlighting the parents for Mother’s day and Father’s day.

The results? The campaign gained worldwide coverage and a global movement initiated. However, not all the attention received was positive. Some criticized the illustrations used in the campaign. But a social media audit done revealed a ratio 10,000 : one of positive to negative reactions.

The key learnings of the campaign, which can be adapted to any business endeavor are : to build the story and an army of support, stay the course and lead the category by redefining it


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