SickKids zeroes in on why it needs more space

The hospital's latest campaign turns the focus back to its patients to finish its goal of funding a new facility.

SickKids is continuing its push for more space in the next phase of its “SickKids VS Limits” campaign, digging into the rationale behind building a new hospital by showing exactly who it will help.

Even the newest wings of the hospital predate the web, and the pace of technological change has made parts of the 40s-era building redundant. Since launching the new fundraising push two years ago, SickKids has achieved 70% of the necessary donations to hit the $1.3 billion dollar goal. But the last stretch of a fundraising goal can often be the hardest part, especially for something the hospital has been talking about for several years. While previous efforts have focused on speaking to a sense of community within the donors themselves, the new “This is Why” campaign is turning the attention back to the children – both to remind potential donors of the goal itself and of who will benefit from the new facilities.

“We need to keep our foot on the gas in order to hit the finish line,” says Craig McIntosh, ECD at Cossette, the agency behind the campaign. He says it’s all about the kids and improving their health, their lives, and the lives of their families, so the goal with the new work is to “shine a spotlight on what goes on behind the doors of the hospital, the life-or-death battles taking place every minute” – echoing an approach for the original “VS” campaign, which helped the hospital break donation records.

Last month, SickKids enlisted Toronto Raptor Fred VanVleet for a campaign by agency No Fixed Address in which people could book an ICU room through AirBnB, giving them a first-hand look at what it is like to stay in the hospital – and see exactly why upgraded facilities are needed.

The new two minute spot features more than 40 SickKids patient families and 25 hospital staff members. In addition, there are five short films with more detailed accounts related to changes faced by patients and staff.

When it comes to the tone of the campaign, McIntosh tells strategy that it’s a careful balancing act when it comes to dramatic depictions of children dealing with illness. He says “VS” always highlights the theme of “winning,” and that nothing is manufactured to create drama. For example, Krish – one of the patients spotlighted in the campaign – has Hirschsprung’s disease, which required a kidney, pancreas, liver and intestinal transplant, but is seen defiantly posing for the camera.

“He’s one of the strongest, bravest, most positive kids we’ve ever met and he knows that by sharing his story he’s making a real difference in the fight to build a new hospital,” McIntosh says.

The campaign features choral music cover of “Hurt” by Nine Inch Nails (and made famous by Johnny Cash), provided by The Music Project Choir.

“When both Trent Reznor and Johnny Cash sung their versions of the song, they were both so deeply personal and took on wildly different meanings when sung by each,” McIntosh says. “We wanted to lend a new perspective and understanding to the lyrics, and for us it simply had to be sung by children.”

The fully-integrated campaign is supported with assets in TV, print, OOH, digital and social media. The spot will also begin airing on broadcast TV this week, including during the Toronto Maple Leafs’ first home game against the Boston Bruins on October 19. Media planning and buying was managed by OMD.