War Child wants you

War Child Canada is trying to persuade Canadians to substitute apathy for action by signing a petition and helping to spread the word about the plight of child soldiers.

War Child Canada is trying to persuade Canadians to substitute apathy for action by signing a petition and helping to spread the word about the plight of child soldiers.

Targeting Canadians 22 to 35, the satirical effort builds off the success of War Child’s ‘Camp Okutta’ campaign. The focus is not fundraising so much as building awareness by shocking viewers. The creative plays on the notion of propaganda, including a viral video and a 30-second TV spot depicting Canadians supporting child soldiers – donating weapons, knitting balaclavas – to make the point that unless you do something, you’re tacitly guilty of moral consent.

‘It’s how you get people to join a cause,’ says Stephen Jurisic, CD at Toronto-based John St., which developed the ‘Camp Okutta’ concept. ‘Propaganda can spread like wildfire on the web.’

The campaign also uses wild postings of posters with statements like ‘War is for kids,’ and images of bullets in crayon box camouflage. It drives to helpchildsoldiers.com, which offers donation info, tools to raise awareness and the petition, which will be sent to the Canadian government to urge it to increase aid to countries with child soldiers. The microsite also links to warchild.ca.

We asked David Chiavegato, creative partner at Toronto-based Grip Limited, and Alison Gordon, VP strategy, marketing and communications at Toronto charity Rethink Breast Cancer, to weigh in on War Child’s new offensive.


Chiavegato: I really like this campaign. The strategy conveys the message that people are contributing to the problem through their own inaction, yet in a way that does not come across as heavy-handed.

Gordon: It was a good idea for the new campaign to build on last year’s, which received a good amount of attention. I believe inspiring people might be a more effective means to rally them. The ‘Camp Okutta’ campaign did a great job of laying the groundwork for the ‘shock’ factor; the question is whether the follow-up campaign should have been more emotional.


Chiavegato: I’m biased here because I like satire as a means of communicating a point. I love the little touches, like the look of pride on the elderly woman’s face as she holds up the balaclava and the painted happy faces on the human targets – a great execution with a solid message.

Gordon: While this spot is well executed and excellently thought through, I wonder whether it is shocking enough. Those who are not aware of the issues may be lost by the sarcasm, and it may be too simplistic for those who already know about the atrocities.

ONLINE – Viral video and microsite

Chiavegato: Like the television spot, the viral spot has some great moments. I particularly like the children tracing themselves for the targets – it makes the message more poignant. While children here are making crafts, other children are being conscripted into an army. I like the site’s clean design. Its ‘protester’ motif ties nicely into the advertising platform. I did however find myself asking whether this charity’s case could have been laid out in a more overt way in the introductory page.

Gordon: The viral video, like the TV spot, is challenging for me as I wonder if shock inspires people. This video is an incredible reminder of how we lead by example. War Child is doing such an amazing job, and as the follow-up campaign to ‘Camp Okutta’ I would love to see more of that. I guess this is where the website comes in! The microsite is great as it looks and feels like a rally. I was a bit disappointed that there were only a few facts as I would like to be better informed on the issues.


Chiavegato: The lines are provocative enough to pique someone’s interest. They do a nice job of walking the line between being overt about the problem yet not trivializing the issue.

Gordon: The posters are beautifully designed and eye-catching, which is obviously a really important element for wild postings. They are a very simple and effective execution of the strategy.

The creds:

War Child Canada

James Topham, director of marketing and fundraising

Ad agency – John St.

Stephen Jurisic, Angus Tucker, CDs; Mia Thomsett, writer; Stuart Campbell, AD; Sandra Moretti, account services; Michelle Orlando, agency producer; Mavis Huntley, agency online producer; Henry Lu, director; Ross Birchall, editor; Soft Citizen, prodco