Arthritis Society ‘turns away’ would-be donors in new campaign

Who: The Arthritis Society, Church+State.

What: “Don’t Donate to Arthritis,” a new national campaign that aims to challenge people’s perceptions of the disease.

When & Where: The campaign is running through November and December using the Arthritis Society’s digital channels, complemented by donated media from out-of-home advertising companies Allvision and Outfront Media.

Why: Arthritis is a progressive, chronic condition that affects about 20% of Canadians on an ongoing or recurring basis. The challenge for the Arthritis Society, says Church+State president and CEO Robin Whalen, is that it not considered a serious disease, with people tending to view it as “achy joints for old people.”

The campaign not only aims to change common perceptions of arthritis and demonstrate how it can negatively impact the quality of life, but seeks to demonstrate the tangible benefits of donating to the Arthritis Society.

“We were looking to disrupt the traditional not-for-profit creative approach (i.e. please give us more money),” says Whalen. “[We wanted] something that would stop people and was not reminiscent of what you would expect to see in the category.”

How: The campaign uses the headline “Don’t Donate to Arthritis” to attract attention, and then personalizes the disease and victims by pointing out the specific ways people’s donations will help.

Church+State worked with Westside Studio and photographer Matt Barnes to shoot four people of different ages, each afflicted by one of the more 100 forms of arthritis and with a unique story about how the disease impacts their life.

The ads provide specific examples of how donations will help—such as helping Amanda feel young again, giving Cristy a pain-free future, and affording Brian the ability to play with his son. 

And we quote: “This campaign shifts people’s focus from an abstract idea like ‘arthritis’ to the tangible impact they can have on the lives of real Canadians—how their support can help Amanda, or Brian, or Cristy, or Janet, or the millions of other Canadians who face this relentless, devastating disease every day.” —Laura Syron, chief development officer at the Arthritis Society.