Nova Scotia is making a change that will change lives

Arrivals + Departures had the tricky task of relaying information about a sensitive topic. So the shop looked outward for guidance.
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When Arrivals + Departures was tasked by the Government of Nova Scotia to deliver a PSA that informs residents of “Canada’s ocean playground” that a change was being made to its Human Organ and Tissue Donation Act, the Halifax shop looked across the pond for inspiration.

“Our approach when it comes to the campaign creation [for the government] is to do consultations and look at other jurisdictions to find out what worked and what hasn’t, especially when you have similar policies and programs in other markets – it’s a great opportunity to learn,” Martin Delaney, president and chief strategist at A+D in Halifax tells strategy.

Back in Dec. 2019, England revealed that its organ donation program would move to an “opt out” system, meaning all British adults would be deemed donors unless they ask to be removed from the government’s records for personal or religious reasons. Many other European countries have adopted the system since the early 2000s so that more people can donate their organs and tissues after they die. And in Jan. 2021, Nova Scotia will be the first jurisdiction in North America to follow suit.

The U.K. gov.’s strategy was to communicate general information about the law change through a powerful storyline. In its PSA, a woman walks the streets of London, commuting by bus, and finally arriving outside a hospital, where she floats a red, heart-shaped balloon to a sick child waiting for a donor to save her life.

A+D was inspired by the delicate balance the U.K. creative achieved, says Delaney. It’s one thing to communicate changes to a government act, it’s another thing to strike a balance between telling the public what’s changing and why it matters – particularly because it’s a sensitive subject, he says.

It takes one donor to save 80 lives, so the change is one that changes lives. Arrivals + Departures used a metaphor to communicate this important insight, showing a scene where a person closes the curtains and turns off the light in their apartment unit, with the camera panning out to reveal dozens of lights switching on as a result. The simple analogy was empathetic and sensitive to the emotional topic, says Delaney. “We had to get the tone right.”

“Most Nova Scotians are responsive to organ and tissue donation, but again, it is a change,” he adds. “And you have to communicate that appropriately. I think the metaphor is respectful of the situation.”

The apartment building and close curtain scene was not shot on film, but rather digitally animated by Accomplice Content Supply Co. to meet physical distancing measures that had been put in place just as production was meant to take place. However, the final execution matched the team’s original concept, notes Delaney.

There are two flights planned for the campaign, the first having launched this month and running through to September. The second phase will begin closer to the change being implemented at the end of 2020. Ads are being broadcast on TV, placed online and in social, with some radio spots also airing in Nova Scotia.