• 04.11.17

New SickKids Ad Spotlights The Unbelievable Strength Of Mom

Think being a parent is tough? Toronto’s SickKids Foundation reminds us that being a parent to a gravely ill child is even tougher.

New SickKids Ad Spotlights The Unbelievable Strength Of Mom

Last year, Toronto’s Hospital For Sick Children launched a new fundraising campaign for its SickKids Foundation that focused on the strength and toughness kids and their families have in dealing with incredibly difficult, sometimes heartbreaking, circumstances. But while the first spot in the “VS” campaign had the fire of a Nike ad, now leading up to Mother’s Day, things take a turn to a more quiet strength and resilience.


In “MomStrong,” created by agency Cossette, we meet a number of mothers in moments of vulnerability due to grief, doubt, and fear. But then something happens. They summon the incredible ability to deal. To face the situation. To be strong not only for themselves but for their child. It’s incredible. Even more is that it’s not just the magic of advertising–the stories are real, and even some of the moms in the ad are real mothers of SickKids patients.

SickKids Foundation vice-president of brand strategy Lori Davison says the insight came from a recognition of the strength it takes to be a mom and to put on a brave face for your kids, regardless of the circumstance. “In the case of SickKids moms, that reality is extreme,” says Davison. “This campaign is meant to give people the opportunity to pay tribute to their own strong mom with a Mother’s Day gift–a donation that will help a woman with a sick child persevere.”

The foundation and agency approached five real SickKids moms at the outset of the creative process to help develop authentic scenarios that were part of their real-life story. Each story is being shared across all elements of the campaign, like social, to give a more complete look at their journeys.

“The real raw and personal stories of overwhelming pain combined with the strength to come through and come in strong for their children captured all of our hearts,” says Cossette chief strategy officer Jason Chaney. “If we could have told all of the stories, we would have. These moms are heroes to their children and to us.”

Five moms did appear in the spot, and the agency left it up to the moms to decide their emotional comfort level of reliving their painful moments. “Some chose to and in other cases, professional actresses filled in to do their stories justice,” says Chaney. “The authentic range of human experience is critical to the VS platform, so having real moms in the spot was crucial, but we were careful to balance the need for authenticity with emotional comfort.”


“It was a profound emotional experience for the moms to revisit and describe those moments in their lives,” says Davison. “It’s important for authenticity–this is always an important element for us. And so much of what SickKids Foundation needs to raise money for is connected to supporting the family. It’s important to get that message out there in a genuine way.”

And it seems to be working. SickKids Foundation just concluded its fiscal year and had the most successful fundraising year in its history, including a record-breaking quarter while the campaign was in market. The VS platform has set records for donations for the SickKids Foundation, tripling the average donation amount and boosting online donations by 695%.

About the author

Jeff Beer is a staff editor at Fast Company, covering advertising, marketing, and brand creativity. He lives in Toronto.