CASSIES Gold: Plan Canada’s girl power

Hopeful messages conquer a tough environment for cause-related marketing.

GOLD: Sustained Success

Situation Analysis Research showed investing in girls to be the most effective way to address global poverty, yet many Canadians felt powerless to help. An estimated 75 million girls around the world are denied an education, with females making up 70% of the one billion people living on less than a dollar a day. To battle this injustice, Plan Canada launched “Because I am a Girl” in 2009. The goal was to raise awareness for programs to protect, educate and empower girls in the developing world. The challenges were considerable – a recession, low brand awareness, an aging donor base, cause fatigue, a perception that the developing world is a lost cause and limited marketing budgets.

Strategy & Insight Research showed the campaign must be a fresh, distinctive and inspiring antidote to the traditional pity-inducing approach – and that it needed to pivot quickly from hard-hitting messages about the plight of girls to inspiring ones about their power to effect change. The target initially focused on moms and teenage girls. But in the second and third years, “moms” was expanded to include 30 to 50-year-old professional women with or without children.

Execution Creative in year one broke sharply from the “flies on the eyes” cliché. It echoed the political text art of Jenny Holzer and Barbara Kruger, with bold statements such as “Hope,” “Power” and the “Are you the one?” – anchored by a manifesto ad that conveyed the plight and the power of girls in eight simple lines. In years two and three, the campaign evolved to an iconic pink and black graphic style, with messaging that balanced the plight of girls with hope and inspiration. Media wrapped the audience in the message, making the campaign virtually impossible to miss. It featured TV, print, OOH, airport, online banners, SEO/SEM, radio, elevators, social media and a microsite.

Results In the first year, the campaign raised $3.1 million compared with its goal of $1 million; in the second year, $5.8 million was raised versus a goal of $5.2 million, and in the third year the campaign raised $10.1 million compared with the $7.5 million target. Engagement also rose sharply – with major increases in unique web visitors, Facebook fans and Twitter followers.

Cause & Effect This was the only advertising-focused campaign by Plan Canada and the budget stayed constant during its rollout. No current events, major news items or competing campaigns beyond advertising can explain its success.


Client: Plan Canada
Exec VP, Marketing & Development: Paula Roberts
Director, Marketing: Serena Trentini
Marketing Managers: Lori Miller, Christina Doyle
Director, Community Engagement: Leanne Nicolle
Director, Strategic Communications: Kristy Payne
Director, New Media: Lesa O’Brien
Director, Information Management: Cheryl Laing
Director, Development: Cathy Wallace
Interactive Specialist: Trevor Lavigne
VP Donor Marketing: Jeff Cornett
E-Marketing Manager: Petra Greenbaum
Director, Donor Marketing: Michelle Duggan
Marketing Consultant: Natalie Williams
Marketing Intern: Meredith Burns
Digital Specialist: Audra Williams
Manager, Digital Communications: Maya Boritz
Agency: Wunderkind
Creative Leader: Syd Kessler
Team Leader & Strategist: Wahn Yoon
Partner: Jacob Kessler
Account Director: Cam Drynan
Account Manager & Senior AD: Ilya Strashun
Digital Project Manager: Gina Lijoi
Media Planner & Buyer: Stewart Barton
Senior AD: Margaret Jeronimo-Andrews
Copywriter: Su Bundock
Producer & Camera, Girl News: Mark Petch
Editor, Girl News: Stephen Parker
Song Writer & Producer: Evren Ozdemir
Director & Editor: Jason Macfarlane
Producer FamilyStyle: Liz Dussault
Admin Support: Joanne Shinwell
Head Engineer Vapor Music: Julian Rudd
Digital Project Manager: Julie Geller
Media Planner & Buyer: Ryan Ghaeli