Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation offers a different Black Friday deal

The hospital goes against the tide with a charitable message that also gets ahead of the crowd participating in "Giving Tuesday."


The Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation (PMCF) is swimming against the consumerist tide this Black Friday, hoping younger deal hunters will pause and reflect upon a truly great deal: a life free of cancer.

The hospital foundation has launched a campaign in the Greater Toronto Area asking Canadians to prioritize saving lives over saving a few bucks, with somber black shopping bags in creative proclaiming a life free of cancer is the deal of a lifetime. The Foundation will also be handing out 1,000 branded physical versions of the bag at Toronto’s Eaton Centre during its busiest shopping days of the year, which will have different variants on the “deal” messaging.

Alyssa Huggins, VP of brand and integrated marketing at The Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation, tells strategy that the Black Friday campaign has its genesis as a brief for “Giving Tuesday,” a hashtag-driven attempt to boost charitable giving following the Black Friday/Cyber Monday weekend. The growth of online giving on that day has been sizeable, she says, and initial insights showed a great opportunity. However, the challenge, Huggins says, is there were 6,500 charities operating on that day last year, according to data from CanadaHelps, with half of them in the GTA, making it easy to get lost in the shuffle.

PMCF_Black_fridayThe new strategy, Huggins says, was to “re-frame what saving could mean to a shopper, hence the idea that saving lives is better than saving money.” She says it’s not about shaming those who are descending on malls or clicking on keyboards to snag deals, but putting holiday spending into perspective.

The creative look and feel is monochromatic, Huggins says, and stands out from from Black Friday marketing campaigns in its starkness, a counter to the heavy red and yellow hues of the holiday shopping season.

On Black Friday, “we’re kind of the odd man out,” Huggins says. The fact that users will see a charitable ad on platforms like Amazon, she says, is contextually relevant and unexpected.

While the brand is known for its splashy Princess Margaret Hospital Home Lottery TV campaign, she says more Canadians are giving online, and that the charity has to “ramp up visibility in that space.”

The foundation has set itself a target of a 60% increase in giving year-over-year. That may sound aggressive, but Huggins says it is not as high as it sounds, as the brand has not done much around this time of year, and that users are encouraged to raise at least $120 for personal fundraising goals for the The Princess Margaret’s Walk or Ride challenge for World Cancer Day.

PMCF’s donor base spans a number of age brackets, Huggins says, and this campaign is more about a behavioural target: deal hunters who’ve shown a philanthropic mindset. She says there is no specific donor target, though charities broadly benefit from boosting monthly givers as a way to monitor growth more consistently.

When it comes to ad spend, she says this is higher than what the organization has done historically, but that’s it’s still small investment-wise, as it’s targeted to such a small time-frame.

Campaign elements include out-of-home at Yonge Dundas tower near Toronto’s Eaton Centre, as well as near shopping destinations like Sherway Gardens, IKEA and Costco. It will also features digital spots in 50 screens in GTA malls, and digital placement on Amazon for deal-hunters.