New ‘SickKids VS’ Video Is On Brand—And (Again) Gut-Wrenching


SickKids VS Cancer Grace

Screenwriters in training are taught that putting a child in jeopardy or the death of a child is a crutch, a cheap way to gain audience emotion and sympathy. But what if children in jeopardy is core to your brand?

It’s been two weeks since Toronto-based The Hospital for Sick Children, or SickKids, dropped a video like no other. After over a half a million views later, the second of the four video “SickKids VS” campaign is here. And SickKids is going to wreck you again, in a good way.

The “SickKids VS” campaign aims to capture all the highs and lows of pediatric illness. The latest video “SickKids VS Cancer” does a little of both and does it very, very effectively. SickKids describes the new video:

“The parents of Grace Bowen, who tragically died of osteosarcoma less than two years ago, have graciously allowed us to share that journey in one of our ads, which is launching digitally Thursday November 3 and in broadcast Monday, November 7. Grace and so many other kids inspire SickKids to work even harder to understand their disease and find better ways to care for them. Grace’s story highlights the courage, strength—and very real pain—of kids and families in the face of a deadly disease. We hope her story inspires people to join SickKids in the fight and make a donation.”

If the first “SickKids VS” video was a look from on high that set the tone and energized the audience, this second one is a drilled-down punch in the gut. Rarely do even healthcare brands dare suggest, let alone show, a dead child. And yet, here SickKids has again used its most powerful brand attribute in the most powerful way possible without falling into the trap of exploitation.

SickKids is on message so tightly in part because of its inspiration. In brandchannel’s recent interview, Lori Davison, VP of brand strategy and communications for SickKids Foundation, said the VS campaign was imagined to be Nike-esque in its tone because “we felt we could also get away with because we do have a lot of different topics that lend themselves to different kinds of emotions.”

SickKids #SickKidsVS billboard signage

With that in mind, there is more to come. The next few weeks will see “VS” videos three and four. According to Davison, one of those messages in later November will be “#SickKidsVS 100 a day,” an attempt to monetize all of the attention for the foundation. And then, expect more gut-wrenchingly powerful messages you can’t help but watch.  Davison told brandchannel, “We see it as a platform that can stay alive at least three to five years, we’re hoping.”

Toronto SickKids Foundation Hospital #SickKidsVS

In the coming weeks SickKids will release two more videos in the VS series, one titled “Broken Hearts” and another in called “Missing Home.”

Read brandchannel’s full interview here.


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