CASSIES Bronze: Canadian Blood Services turns people into heroes

To engage young people, the “One Hero” campaign brought the target market into an immersive comic-book world online.

Events, Seasonal and Short-Term

Situation Analysis: Over 1,000 people a year in Canada need a stem cell donation to save their lives. However, only 25% of them will find a match within their family. This leaves the other 75% in need of the One Match Stem Cell and Marrow Network. While procedures involving stem cells taken from 17- to 35-year-old males tend to have greater success rates, the average age of charitable donors in Canada is aging, making it increasingly difficult for Canadian Blood Services to find optimal stem cell donor matches. An added difficulty in attracting donors was that Canadian Blood Services insisted potential donors must give informed consent, completing a ten-question knowledge test as part of the sign-up.

Insight & Strategy: This target market is a niche, hard-to-reach audience, very savvy to marketing messages, who couldn’t just be told what to do; they needed to be educated through meaningful engagement. The target’s immersion in social media pointed to a need to appeal to their sense of ego, to make them the centre of the engagement strategy. The target market indexed high in the tendency to enjoy online gaming and online comics and graphic novels, making that genre the preferred communication vehicle.

Execution: Running from October to December 2013, the One Hero campaign brought the target market into an immersive comic-book world in which they were the hero, mirroring the real-life drama of a stem cell donor saving the life of a patient battling leukemia. As users progressed through the story, they were educated on the process of donating stem cells. Once they had reached the end, they were offered the chance to save a real life by initiating the registration process on

The primary platform for communication was the microsite at, a parallaxing, animated site using HTML5, CSS3 and javaScript to transform the user’s scroll into a digital turn of the comic book page, encompassing 26 frames and over 200 individual images. The site was supported by digital banner ads across relevant sites together with paid Facebook and outreach to comic book influencers. Once engaged on the site, the biggest barrier to sign up was the knowledge test portion of the experience. The ten-question test, which required each answer being correct before progressing to sign-up, was incorporated into the concept by changing the wording of the questions so they followed the theme of the comic itself.

Results: Within the 17- to 35-year-old male target, over 58,000 unique site visits with a time on site of over nine minutes delivered a 30% lift in new registrants compared to the same time last year, despite the knowledge test creating a drop-off in users at that portion of the experience.

Cause & Effect: The campaign, employing a normal spend, received 425,000 Twitter impressions and mentions from 46 different countries.

Client: Canadian Blood Services
National advertising & creative development manager: Virginia Gaffney
Agency: DDB Canada/Rapp
ECD: Barb Williams
Creative group lead: Italo Siciliano
CW: Eric Grimes
AD: Carla Rimando
Flash: Heung Lee
Agency producer/interactive: Caroline Clarke
Account coordinators: Leigh Farlow, John Davis
Account supervisor: Susan McGregor
Account director: Susan Powell
Strategist, Tribal Worldwide: Parker Mason
Analytics: Kevin McHugh
Production Company: STOPP/LA
CD: Zachery Richter
AD: Abraham Cortes
Technical director: Ola Björling
Lead developer: Jin Kim
Animator: Justin Young
Executive producer: Fredrik Montan Frizell
Sr. integrated producer: Kristen Koeller
Illustrator: Gary Musgrave
Music composer: Ian Persson Stiernsward
Interactive sound production: Plan 8
Media agency: OMD
Digital specialists: Michelle Jaraim, Dan Stanisz
Strategy supervisor: Tyler Gain