The Frontline Fund asks donors to give workers some back up

The campaign drives to a central donation point for Canadians and companies to "cover" the needs of staff at over 100 hospitals.


During a time where the majority of Canadians are being told to stay home and physically distance, nurses, doctors, hospital administrators and other medical staff, are facing COVID-19 daily, head-on, in fairly dangerous situations, in an attempt to contain the pandemic.

Last week, more than 100 hospital foundations throughout Canada – such as SickKids, Toronto General and Western Foundation (UHN) and Montreal General Hospital Foundation – announced a coalition to pool resources to promote the needs of these workers and create a centralized place for the millions in donations both the public and companies have been looking to direct to frontline workers.

Funds raised through the “Frontline Fund,” as it has been called, will go toward supplies like personal protective equipment, research for clinical drug trials and vaccine development, as well as supports like gift cards, peer-to-peer mental health support and hotel rooms so workers can isolate from their families.

To generate buzz for this national collaborative effort, Toronto-based creative agency Conflict, PR agency Citizen Relations and media agency OMD launched a campaign featuring frontline workers in surgical masks and face shields, staring directly at the viewer.

“‘Cover Us’ speaks to the literal help those people need with supplies to augment what the government is doing…sometimes they’re going to need hotel rooms, because they can’t go home where their kid is when they’ve been working in a hospital full of COVID-19,’” says Jason Last, partner and strategy director at Conflict. “And metaphorically, you’re having their back as they charge to the frontline of what is a pretty devastating battle.”

Last says the whole notion of expressing that Canadians can help “cover” frontline workers is a quick and succinct way to emotionally capture the coalition’s ask. “We’ve been talking about a tone that is both urgent, but calm – which is very much what makes really great healthcare professionals so great, is that sense of tireless work ethic…at the same time, there’s a real professionalism and calm,” Last says.

Doctor checking monitor in operating room

One of the objectives of the Frontline Fund is to provide “an easy, one-stop solution” for Canadians looking to donate. More than $8.5 million in donations has already been committed at launch time, led by TD, Maple Leaf Foods and the Canadian Medical Association. The corporate support helps kick off the Fund which launches at a challenging time; the economic landscape is grim – with more than one million jobs lost in March alone and many Canadians worried about the impact a recession will have on their finances.

“I don’t think the coalition of hospitals behind this campaign aren’t aware of the fact that they’re asking for help at a time when there’s a lot of financial uncertainty,” Last says. “It’s purely through the lens that help is needed, and a lot of Canadians are looking already for ways to show support that can be a little more tangible. As great as the banging of pots and pans are to show solidarity and appreciation to frontline healthcare workers, this is another way to do that.”

This is a fully-integrated marketing campaign, with a national media plan in English and French, consisting primarily of donated media, including a 30-second radio PSA read by Canadian sportscaster Ron MacLean; 15-second TV ads, 10-second billboards and lower thirds provided by Corus Media, in addition to various promoted social media posts.