Petro-Canada’s powerful portrait of Canadian caregivers

Who: Petro-Canada’s CareMakers Foundation, with McCann for strategy and creative, Common Good for production (directed by Jamie Webster), OMD for media, Pirate for audio, Veritas for PR , and Tam-Tam\TBWA for French adaptation, and casting was handled by Mann Casting.

What: A launch campaign for the new-ish foundation created by Petro-Canada to provide support for the one in four Canadians who are family caregivers.

When & Where: The campaign just launched, and is running through the end of June across TV, digital and out of home. The centrepiece is a 60-second ad called “Milestones,” which is running on TV with various cutdowns.

Why: CareMakers was launched in November with very little in the way of advertising or communications until now. This new campaign acknowledges that Petro-Canada is behind the foundation, but also starts to raise awareness about an issue that faces so many Canadians, said Leila Fenc, executive director, Petro-Canada CareMakers Foundation. “We wanted to try to break through so that people pause and actually pay attention to the ad and try to understand, ‘Oh man, this is relevant to my life.'”

How: The TV ad is a poignant portrait of a young couple’s joyous ups and heartbreaking downs after one of them receives a life-altering medical diagnosis. (It’s the kind of spot that might lead someone’s father to find it on YouTube and send to his son to suggest he write about it.)

A handful of written messages spell out what it means to be a caregiver—62 bathroom cries, 46 missed after-work drinks—but the young couple carry on, celebrating milestones and comforting each other in tougher moments, their lives forever changed by the diagnosis but still as in love as ever. “For family caregivers, life is measured differently,” reads the closing super.

“We were asked to tell the most emotional story,” said McCann’s chief creative officer, Josh Stein. “The simpler the story the more powerful it would be. And we just felt focusing on a couple… and just telling a very honest story was the best way to get people’s attention.”

Why such a young couple? That was a conscious decision to challenge assumptions about this being an elder care issue only, and to show how a serious diagnosis can come at any time and change someone’s life—and the life of a loved one—forever.

“You try and hold on to the smiles, and try and hold on to the good stuff,” said Stein. “And you try and find those moments, but you give up a lot. You sacrifice a lot. You go without a lot. All for the sake of the love you have for someone else, and you build a life around that.”

Petro-Canada has committed $10 million over the next five years to provide support to some of the eight million Canadians who provide care to a loved one. The first grants have been given to Baycrest Foundation, Circle of Care: Mount Sinai Hospital, BC Neighbourhood Houses, and Community Care City of Kawartha Lakes.

The music: You can Shazam it if you want, but you won’t find it. Pirate commissioned Toronto songwriter Lucas Silveira to write an original track. The music plays a big part in grabbing attention, said Stein. “The spot was on and my wife said ‘I like the music, what are you watching?'”

No call to action? Not yet. Future creative will do that, the objective of the first ads was just to introduce people to the cause, and start a larger conversation about caregiving.

“People first need to understand the issue,” said Fenc. “And once people start to understand how prevalent it is, and how universal it is, and how it doesn’t just hit one demographic of Canadians, that’s what we’re really trying to accomplish with this first campaign out of the gate.”

David Brown