Dave Thomas Foundation spins animal adoption tropes

Ads bringing attention to the needs of foster care programs is a rare mass play for the QSR's charity of choice.


In spite of there being more than 30,000 children currently in foster care in Canada, many people are more likely to think about adopting a family pet first.

So, for National Adoption Month in November, McCann Toronto worked with Wendy’s Canada on a pro bono awareness and fundraising campaign for The Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption Canada, allowing Canadians to discover that fact for themselves.

Creative for “Up For Adoption,” launched on Nov. 11, shows kids holding cute animals in images typical of animal adoption campaign, with copy reminding them that donations can help those in the ads find a “forever home.” The subject is left intentionally ambiguous, though, and when people visit UpForAdoption.ca, they learn that it’s not the featured animals, but rather the children, that are up for adoption. A 15-second video also follows that format.

The campaign concept began with the realization that Canadians are unaware of the amount of available children in the foster care system, and are more likely to think of a family pet when considering adoption, says Lisa Deletroz, marketing director at Wendy’s Canada (the foundation, created by Wendy’s founder Dave Thomas in 1992, is the QSR’s charity of choice).

“There’s nothing wrong about adopting pets,” Deletroz says. “We just believe that we should shine a light on the fact that there is another cause other than pets.”

Once on the microsite, Canadians will not find a catalogue of children available for adoption, as one would for site offering pet adoption. Rather, the purpose of the campaign is to raise awareness and funds for the foundation and its Wendy’s Wonderful Kids Program, which provides funding to adoption agencies to hire recruiters that help match children in foster care with the right families.

The campaign is running across TV, online video, digital, social and transit OOH until December. McCann Toronto, Wendy’s creative AOR in Canada, was supported by media AOR Initiative (with media being donated to the cause), MRM McCann on website development and Craft Public Relations.

The Canadian-led effort is the largest ever for the organization on this side of the border, according to Deletroz. The QSR’s marketing efforts for the foundation, which are often led out of the U.S., typically consist of in-store merchandising and fundraising drives, and budgets do not generally allow for the creation of Canadian-specific work supporting the foundation.

But, she says, discussions with McCann about the severity of the foster care “crisis” in Canada led it to the development of a more elaborate campaign this year. Wendy’s will be tracking brand awareness and health metrics following the campaign, and Deletroz says she is “fairly confident” that the organization will see fundraising lifts “in the neighbourhood of 15%.”