CASSIES Bronze: Raising the Roof humanizes homelessness

The non-profit campaign had homeless people read cruel tweets.


This story appears in the February/March 2016 issue of strategy.

Bronze: Best Insight

Situation Analysis:

Over 200,000 Canadians experience homelessness but often go ignored, perceived as having made poor life decisions, are lazy, or abuse drugs or alcohol. However, in reality, these are regular people who’ve fallen on tough times, suffered abuse, are mentally disabled, or have grown up without support or guidance. Raising The Roof – a not-for-profit organization dedicated to long-term solutions for Canada’s homeless – sought to dispel these common misconceptions.

Insight & Strategy:

Typical non-profit campaigns of the past focused too much on being clever, telling people to care, or showing them why they should, leading to cause and appeal fatigue. To help understand the specific problems that people live with, the message needed to be shocking, thought provoking, shareable and real to lead to a positive behaviour change.


Launched nationally on Feb. 27, 2015, Raising The Roof asked homeless people to read cruel tweets and comments about them that people were posting online, see their reaction, and give them an opportunity to respond to the posters. The campaign ran across online digital display ads and pre-roll videos, driving people to, which featured 33 “mean tweet” videos. Wild postings also placed the messages contextually on the street.


The Raising The Roof YouTube channel garnered over 1.5 million views which, prior to the campaign, had just 22,925 channel views. Over 26,000 hours of content was watched online during the three-month campaign, nearly 20-times more content than the previous five years combined. Humans for Humans content had an 88% audience retention rate versus the average YouTube rates of 40 to 50%. Donations increased 415% during the course of the campaign.

Cause & Effect:

Prior to the campaign, engagement with Raise The Roof content was minimal and donations were flat.


Client: Raising the Roof

Executive director: Carolann Barr

Director of development: Arundel Gibson

Marketing and communications manager: Caitlin Boros

Agency: Leo Burnett

CCO: Judy John

CDs: Judy John, Lisa Greenberg, Sean Ohlenkamp

Group CDs: Steve Persico, Anthony Chelvanathan

CW: Steve Persico

AD: Anthony Chelvanathan

Digital designer: Sean Perkins

Developer: Jacqueline Adediji

Flash developer: Chad Elston

Agency producers: Franca Piacente, Kim Burchiel

Director: Angie Bird (OPC/Family Style)

Photographer: Viktor Cahoj (OPC/Family Style)

Group account director: Natasha Dagenais

Account supervisor: Kayla Osmond

Planner: Lisa Hart

Project manager: Faran Qureshi

Production company: OPC/Family Style

Executive producers: Harland Weiss, Liz Dussault

Director of photography: Viktor Cahoj

Producer: Michelle Woodward

Casting: Shasta Lutz

Editing company: Rooster Post Production

Editors: Izzy Ehrlich, Moe Ismail

Producer: Melissa Kahn

Transfer/Online: Alter Ego/Fort York

Producers: Tricia Hagoriles, Ernie Mordak, Amanda Lariviere

Music Company: The Eggplant

Producer: Rocco Gagliese, Nicola Treadgold

Sound Mixer: Nathan Handy

Media Agency: M&K Media

Partners/Planners: Julie McIlroy, Niamh Barry