Ontario Children’s Aid seeks to change the conversation

The Ontario Association of Children's Aid Societies has embarked on a media campaign to change perceptions and help tell its positive stories to the public.

For a long time, the advertising behind the Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies (OACAS) reflected the organization’s mandate to assist children in dangerous or harmful situations. However, that messaging tended to focus only on the darkest aspects of the work.

This year, the OACAS is seeking to change negative connotations might people have of the organization with a multimedia campaign called ‘I am your Children’s Aid,’ telling the positive stories of people who were helped by the organization as children and are now adults with happy and successful lives.

The campaign, with creative by Scott Thornley and Company and media by PHD, both of Toronto, started with a website asking people to tell their stories about being involved with the organization. Those stories formed the basis of the full media campaign, including a OACAS PSA, a co-branded PSA with Canwest on its broadcast properties, radio and print advertising via aboriginal mediaco Wawatay News (with translation into different aboriginal languages) and print advertising in the Globe and Mail, Metro and the Thunder Bay Chronicle. The PSA is also running in Cineplex theatres, and online ad space has been donated by 24-7 Real Media, Gorilla Nation, Suite 66, UpTrend Media, Redux Media and BV! Media.

‘This is the first year [OACAS] had some budget, and they decided that they wanted to put a dedicated face to their advertising for the first time,’ says Brian Wylie, group account director, PHD. ‘So it’s a big jump for them and definitely a change in the communication strategy that they’ve had in the past.’

‘In the past they wanted to increase reporting – people speaking up for children, whereas now they want to increase awareness about what the CAS does,’ Lori-Anne Isber, account manager, PHD, further explains. ‘The overarching message is: this is what we do, this is how we help people.’

Targeting adults over 45 – with a goal of reaching people of influence in Ontario communities – the campaign debuted on Dec. 30 with the OACAS PSA and will continue throughout 2010. Due the limited budget of the OACAS, Wylie says that they are still looking for additional media outlets to donate inventory for the campaign, and hopes to ultimately have a six-to-one return on the original media budget by way of contributed inventory.