PMCF hires Rethink with mandate to build the brand

The fundraising arm of renowned Toronto cancer hospital Princess Margaret has chosen Rethink as its new advertising agency to help build the brand and drive donations beyond the Greater Toronto Area.

The Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation did not have a creative agency of record when Alyssa Huggins joined as vice-president, brand and integrated marketing from Pizza Pizza last July. Fundraising was still strong, but most of it was coming from the Greater Toronto Area. Huggins was tasked with building the brand and driving donations across a wider area.

“For us to continue to fuel the efforts of the cancer centre, we have to bring in more dollars,” she said. “So part of the brand work is being able to bring awareness and consideration and donation intent beyond the GTA.”

Rethink was chosen after a formal review using the ICA’s qualification-based selection process. QBS removes fees, rates and budgets from the early part of the review process, focusing instead on qualifications and previous work as a demonstration of capability.

“Really it boils down to you are judging based on cases, credentials and chemistry,” said Huggins, who also used the process to pick a media agency with Pizza Pizza.

“Obviously there is no spec work, it is not about the financials, it’s really about the agencies demonstrating they have done similar types of work, and do they have the chops to do what we asked.”

Rethink has already begun its research and discovery process, looking for new ways of bringing the brand to life. The goal is to release the first brand work later this year, Huggins said.

“Their mandate is very much brand,” she said. PMCF has a well-known vision statement—”Conquer cancer in our lifetime”—and a number of familiar and established marketing assets, but there has been a lack of consistency with its messaging.

Rethink is reviewing the existing brand assets, assessing the strengths of those elements, and looking for opportunities where it can build a new brand platform with the most effective positioning, delivered across the full scope of its marketing activities.

The key will be “really exceptional storytelling,” said Huggins. Fundraising today is difficult when there is so much competition for donor dollars, and the most effective campaigns are those that feel personal, she said. PMCF does a lot of powerful, meaningful work that helps a large number of people. “There are so many stories to be told, really rich human stories that can be told, and that is what people can connect with.”

David Brown