Thursday, December 24, 2009

Head vs. Heart: A Tale of Two Campaigns

Happy holidays everyone! I want to share a quick, Christmas eve post on two competing campaigns that I've been thinking about for a while. It's interesting to see the difference between the way in which advertisers with very similar goals approached their campaigns, both in terms of strategic direction and creative execution. The advertisers in question? Two famous hospital foundations from the GTA.

First up is the Sunnybrook foundation. The work is part of the hospital's biggest donation drive ever, and so the objective of the brief must have been to create a campaign that incites action from people. We, as the audience, have to feel the need support Sunnybrook over competing hospital foundations. The strategy, from Sunnybrook AOR Dentsu, seems sound. What is it that sets Sunnybrook apart from its competitors? Innovation. Their experts are continually creating new solutions that further their ability to care for patients.
“They innovated a plastic bag that they put [premature] babies in so they retain body heat and better survive in the short term...Now, instead of seeing the hospital as a place where bad things are happening, I look at it and think amazing things are happening there.” - Glen Hunt, Creative Catalyst at Denstu
But innovation is meaningless on its own. The brief puts this differentiator into context by highlighting it "when it matters the most" - after car crashes, when a mother is diagnosed with breast cancer, etc. Simply said, then, the creative challenge was to illustrate "Innovation when it matters the most".

Here's the work:

As you can see, the creative takes an interesting direction. Rather than appealing to the heart, it appeals to the head, with a more rational, logical approach. The ads present a logical flow of information, linking objects to subjects to events and eventually arriving at the pay off: "That's why it matters". For example, one ad reads "This is the collision. This is the ambulance. This is when 36 specialists have 36 minutes to perform the impossible. This is the victim. This is the impossible. That's why it matters." Some may consider the tone and manner a bit cold. A colleague of mine likened it to math. 1 + 1 + 3 = 5. It's like saying "When this happens, it leads to this, which leads to this, which eventually leads to this... it's all logical, so if you don't support us, you're stupid." People are of course becoming more pragmatic and rational about where they spend their money, but they have hearts too, you know.

Another interesing part is the open-endedness of the pay-off and its call-to-action. What is the "it" referring to in "That's why it matters"? Is it simply the innovations that are happening at Sunnybrook? Am I supposed to note that in my head and file it away? Or is it subtly implying that its my donation that matters and it's a necessary part of making these innovations happen? It will be interesting to see how this campaign plays out in 2010.

Next up is the Sicks Kid's Hospital, with their "Believe" campaign. Again, they faced a similar task: raise awareness of the Sick Kids Foundation and drive donations. A key element of the brand is storytelling - that is, showing what goes on in the hospital and the kids who are treated there. These stories give people a reason to believe not only in Sick Kids, but that their donations make a difference in the lives of these children.

Part of the campaign is the "I Believe in Sick Kids" microsite, at which people can upload video stories illustrating why they believe in the hospital and the work that it does. The site coincides with two spots featuring former patients telling their stories. But the star of the campaign is the brand spot by JWT, which initially debuted a few years ago. I'm not usually a big fan of basing an entire creative execution on one song, but in this case, they nailed it. The spot features the well-known song "Lean on me", which is sung by the patients and doctors in a series of clips illustrating what happens at the hospital. Whether its an inspiring scene in which doctors are being educated, or a shot of a young child being treated, the spot is emotionally involving and pulls on our heartstrings. Here's the ad:

Unlike the Sunnybrook work, the Sick Kids ad doesn't need to link all of the pieces together to communicate why donating matters - the execution says it all. The tagline is also a pretty clear call-to-action: "Believe. Donations make a difference." And judging by the comments it's getting on YouTube, it appears to be resonating with its audience.

Which campaign resonates more with you? Which creative execution not only builds the brand in your eyes, but strikes up a desire in you to donate?

Merry Christmas and happy holidays everyone!

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