Kids Help Phone signals a shift

The non-profit is looking to expand its audience to all potential donors who support the youth it serves.

kids-helpWith a gritty look and feel, Kids Help Phone is broadening its reach to include all of its supporters, not just the youth it serves.

The “Signals” spot in the new ”Show up for Youth” campaign is a dark and moody effort that shows kids communicating “help” messages by doing things like drawing SOS on a mirror, tapping Morse code on a plate and lighting a flare on a basketball court.

Mark Jordan, Kids Help Phone’s vice president, brand strategy and chief communications officer, tells strategy that the spot intentionally does not depict a particular incident or scenario, but was instead meant to leave things somewhat ambiguous.

“It’s not always obvious when young people are in distress,” Jordan says. He says the brand wanted to pick signals that were not specific to a particular subculture or group, but that resonated with its entire audience (he says that contrary to what would be expected, younger audiences were able to understand the spot’s more arcane forms of communication when it was focus tested).

Its previous campaign, the J. Walter Thompson-led “Unfiltered Posts,” was a more youth-facing initiative, he says, depicting the lives teens live on social media.  “Signals,” by contrast, was meant to galvanize a supporter audience of donors, volunteers and companies that want to step up, while at the same time not alienating the young people it serves.

Jordan says the brand is on a three to five-year course where it will be transforming Kids Help Phone from top to bottom in terms of how it talks about the brand and how it fundraises. Kids Help Phone, he says, wants to double the number of calls it receives over the next few years, up from 1.6 million the charity fielded in 2018.

“Signals” launched May 13 and will run until mid-June. New agency partner Manifest Communications developed the platform, and Society Etc. handled the media planning and buying. Running in English and French, “Signals” will include TV, online video, social and radio – directing traffic to a campaign landing page to collect donations.