CASSIES Silver: Heart & Stroke makes death wait

The non-profit’s haunting message alerts Canadians to the risks of heart disease.

SILVER: Off to a Good Start

Situation Analysis In 2011, the Heart & Stroke Foundation faced a serious problem. The perception was that heart disease and stroke (HDS) only affected overweight, aging white men. Yet in reality women had become the fastest growing segment prone to attack. To make matters worse, Canadians believed that they could be fully treated over a few days in the hospital. Complicating this, the HSF board of directors – a conservative body – had to be convinced to invest in an advertising campaign outside their comfort zone.

Strategy & Insight HDS will take one in three Canadians before their time, and shockingly, it has become the number one killer of women in Canada over all cancer deaths combined. Yet people were not aware of this and took HDS much too lightly. The urgent task was to make HDS top of mind for Canadians – young and old, male and female. Typically, charities focus on life, and talk about the positive things they are doing. This campaign, breaking all conventions, would personify Death – and ask at-risk people to get themselves assessed.

Execution The campaign launched in October 2011, and it was the Foundation’s first truly national campaign after years of fragmented messaging. Creative took on a deliberately disturbing aura. TV, for example, showed that Death was within arm’s reach of all of us – stalking us as we do normal, everyday things, and ready to take us at any time. This was augmented by similar creative in magazines, online, OOH and social media.

Results It was expected “Make Death Wait” would spark controversy, and indeed it did. But results beat all objectives, and re-energized the Foundation. Donations of $2 million are running over the initial objective and 113,300 people have taken a risk assessment, versus a goal of 75,000. Awareness, importance, urgency, credibility, uniqueness and emotional connection are all ahead of target, as is social media presence.

Cause & Effect No other variables changed at the Foundation, so the results can be fully attributed to the “Make Death Wait” campaign.


Client: The Heart & Stroke Foundation of Canada
Director, parent brand marketing: Laura Plant
Sr. manager, parent brand marketing: Joanne Cullen
Former VP, marketing & communications: Lisa Chicules
Campaign lead: Kelly McCarten
Director of digital and direct marketing for Ontario: Kristian Dart
Agency: Lowe Roche
CDs: Geoffrey Roche, Steph Mackie, Mark Biernacki
Account services: Dave Carey
AD: Steph Mackie
Copywriter: Mark Biernacki
Print producer: Beth Mackinnon