JP\TBWA’s ‘Signal for Help’ wins Effies Grand Prix

Juniper Park\TBWA’s “Signal for Help” campaign for the Canadian Women’s Foundation won the Grand Prix at this year’s Effie Awards Canada, with judges praising it as “astounding,” and an idea with the potential to have a huge impact for years to come.

Introduced during the early days of the pandemic, just as Zoom calls were starting to become a key way for people to communicate during lockdown, the “Signal for Help” was created to help women secretly indicate that they were trapped at home with an abusive partner who was likely monitoring their calls and other interactions.

The campaign garnered widespread recognition and acclaim, with the Effies judges hailing it as “unbelievable from start to finish,” “a simple solution for an enormously complex problem,” and an “amazing example of providing a new solution to an existing problem in the face of an environmental change (the sharp increase in video calling).”

The campaign also won three Golds and a Silver and, along with other award-winning work for clients including Tropicana and Major League Socks, helped Juniper Park\TBWA land Agency of the Year honours at Canada’s top awards show for effectiveness in advertising.

After introducing the Gold, Silver and Bronze winners in this year’s Effie Awards Canada throughout the month (see the 13 Gold winners here), the ICA unveiled the Grand Prix winner, Independent Agency of the Year, Network of the Year, Media Agency of the Year and Client of the Year honours during Thursday’s Canadian Creative Effectiveness Summit, which was streamed live from the Globe & Mail Centre in Toronto.

Rethink Toronto was named Independent Agency of the Year for its award-winning work for clients including Kraft Heinz, Science World, Molson Coors, IKEA, Greenpeace and A&W. It was also named Network of the Year for work carried out by its Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal offices.

Mindshare Canada, which oversaw media planning and buying for Dove’s multi-award winning campaign “Courage is Beautiful” was named Media Agency of the Year, while Dove parent Unilever won Client of the Year.

Thursday’s livestream featured Q&As with each of the Gold Effie winners, as well as an interview with the “Godfather of Effectiveness,” Peter Field, conducted by ThinkTV Canada president and CEO Catherine MacLeod. It also marked the introduction of the first-ever study on Canadian effectiveness, “The Alchemy of Effectiveness…A Focus on Canada”

During the Q&A about the “Signal for Help” case, Andrea Gunraj, vice-president of public engagement at the Canadian Women’s Foundation, said the success of “Signal for Help”—which was adopted by more than 200 women’s groups around the world—was “bittersweet,” because it demonstrated the scope of the problem of domestic abuse during the pandemic.

“We realized right away there was all this media interest, all kinds of organizations contacted us to be able to use this,” said Gunraj. “It went across 44 countries, and in July we did a national poll to see [if people knew] about this signal, and we found that one in three people had seen the signal, heard about the signal, or saw it used.”

Juniper Park\TBWA president David Toto said that the “Signal for Help” was designed as a tool, not a campaign, noting that the Canadian Women’s Foundation specifically requested that it be unbranded. “It was designed purposefully for people to grab and make their own, and that’s probably a big reason for the success,” he said.

Chris Powell