In 2017, drownings were reaching record highs in regions across Canada. Despite numerous newscasts and reports with warnings and advice, the toll kept climbing. The challenge was one faced by brands the world over: how to cut through the noise of a heavily saturated media world. A world in which people were so de-sensitized to media that they would ignore matters that were literally about life and death.
Our mission for the Canadian Red Cross was to cut through the noise of the news that was easy to ignore and create an emotional impact on the viewer to hammer home the importance of water safety – especially for children. Our target audience was broad, as water safety applies to everyone, but we used multi-cultural TV stations to hone in on newcomers to Canada, as many immigrants arrive from places where recreational water activities skew low, and so ingrained safety education is not as innate.
We hijacked the popular social media video trope of “we put a camera on a ___” and used the perspective of a child, left unattended at a pool party, to seize our audience in moment of terror as the unthinkable happens and the child falls into the pool. The key factors that created meaning included preventing the audience from disassociating from the child. We used the name Sam to prevent the audience from knowing whether it was a boy or girl and we never showed Sam so that the audience couldn’t see any race. This prevented our viewers from being able to separate their own child, or a child they knew, from the events of the video. Sam could be anyone’s child.
We created a 30-second version for social placement and television that features the uncomfortable cliffhanger ending and a longer version online that offers the full story. The uncertainty of Sam’s fate from the 0:30 led people to seek the rest of the video for reassurance and there, we would drive them to sign up for First Aid and educate them on important facts regarding drowning and water safety.
The video advertisements were supported by a website, a social media campaign, an infographic at the site that can be printed and put up at pools and near water, a print piece that ran in HELLO! Canada, and an out-of-home campaign that featured the same actors from the video taking a selfie from the POV of Sam during the drowning with the line, “Don’t let your latest selfie be the last one they see.”
Our goal was for our viewers to feel the discomfort associated with Sam’s potential tragedy enough to start paying attention. The message was clear: when you are near water, you need to be present. You need to be actively engaged. You need to be watching your kids – not your phone.
And people heard us.
• 131,000 Facebook views in less than a week
• Aired 4-5 times per day on over 50 national channels to reach our target audience
• 18 million Out-of-Home impressions
• 300,000 views on media outlets
• 153,000 impressions from Cineplex pre-roll – to a captive audience
• 508,212 TV impressions
• 135,087 print media impressions from HELLO! Canada magazine