Ronald McDonald House BC runs first mass campaign

The non-profit amplifies its mission to eliminate distance between families and their sick children.


In 2014, Ronald McDonald House BC & Yukon vacated its 13-bed facility and moved into one accommodating nearly six times as many families. While that has helped it keep more families of sick children together as they undergo treatment in the Vancouver area, it has also brought on higher operating costs at a time when competition in the non-profit space is increasingly fierce.

So to help boost awareness and donations in support of its work, RMH BC teamed up with Cossette on its first mass marketing campaign, unveiled on Mother’s Day to align with the maternal (and paternal) plea at the centre of the creative.

In the TV spot, viewers encounter a mother in three vastly different contexts, all of them connected to the idea of distance. She begins on board a ship on a stormy night, where she radios in to her son back home and tries to comfort him after a nightmare. Next, she appears on a space station, then at a far-northern outpost. Finally, we find her on a couch at home, longing to return to the hospital to be with her son. The feeling of distance, it seems, has been amplified by the family’s need to be together during a difficult time.

“The insight that we wanted to tap into was that feeling that any distance is too far,” says Shannon Kidd, VP of external relations and development at RMH BC. “When people come [to RMH], they don’t have a lot of notice, they are thrust into one of the most difficult situations that they will ever face as a family, and we wanted to harness that feeling.”

To help generate donations, Kidd says the organization has focused on creating “authentic connections” with viewers, while stopping short of fabricating an overtly emotional scenario just for “the tear-jerker factor.”

The distance metaphor extends into the print and digital executions of the campaign, in which the mother and son are physically separated in two different ad spaces. OMD is handling media.

In the past, the 35-year-old charity has done “all the normal things that charities do,” including direct mail and email campaigns and fundraising events like galas and golf tournaments, says Kidd. But RMH BC needed to scale its efforts to help educate the communities that it serves (there are 15 Ronald McDonald houses in Canada, and each one is responsible for its own marketing).

“We’ve been very fortunate in that we have a larger group of very dedicated donors and supporters,” says Kidd. “But the competitive landscape is getting ever so crowded and we do want to make sure that our mission is crystal clear and that we are understood as a standalone organization that helps families.”