A plea for Albertans to help ‘OWN.Cancer’

Who: The Alberta Cancer Foundation, University of Calgary and Alberta Health Services, with Calgary agency Daughter for creative, Animals for production (Christopher Brown directing), Outsider, Alter Ego, Wingman, 6 Degrees for audio.

What: “OWN.Cancer,” a new fundraising campaign urging Albertans to donate to the new Calgary Cancer Centre, which is scheduled to open in 2023. The campaign is built around the tagline “The more we own cancer, the less it owns us.”

When & Where: The campaign kicked off with a virtual launch event this week, and is running across TV and YouTube pre-roll as a 60-second ad and a series of 15-second cutdowns, complemented by billboard ads. The ads will be in market through the end of the year, although the fundraising component will continue for four years.

Daughter also partnered with Calgary apparel company Local Laundry to develop a line of OWN-branded streetwear including hoodies, T-shirts and toques, with all proceeds towards the Calgary Cancer Centre.

Why: Approximately half of Albertans will be diagnosed with cancer at some point in their life, meaning there is an urgent need for cancer research and care in the province. The fundraising campaign is looking to raise $250 million for the Calgary Cancer Centre over the next four years.

How: The 60-second launch ad, “How does it feel?” relies on misdirection to deliver a message about how supporting the Calgary Cancer Centre could help end the disease. The video opens on scenes synonymous with cancer care: People entering MRI machines, shaving their head in anticipation of chemotherapy, a patient lying in a hospital bed with a loved one at their side. A voiceover asks “How does it feel? Knowing there’s nowhere to run, nowhere to hide. Knowing today could be your last. It might be. It will be.”

Midway through the spot, the perspective changes and we realize that the voiceover is addressing the disease itself. “How does it feel cancer? Knowing we’re coming for you, just like you came for us, our friends, our family. We won’t stop until you’re gone.”

The creative approach came from a personal place, said Jordan Finlayson, senior copywriter with Daughter. “I’ve lost a number of family members to cancer, so I know exactly how it feels when cancer is in control of your life, either directly or indirectly,” he said. “The same goes for our agency. Everyone in the office had lost someone. It just brought out a lot of sharing and discussion about how we wanted to empower our audience and what that would look like.

“For me, it really was just a lightbulb moment of writing while sitting in a coffee shop,” he said of the script. “I jotted down a rough script, shared it with my partner Justin [Tabakian, art director], and things sort of took off. We kept on refining the script and making the misdirect more prominent.”

And we quote: “Daughter was tasked with a lofty goal: Help us create a strong brand that represents all three partner organizations, stands out above the noise and will inspire our community to give to this cancer campaign. They did that and more. They captured our Albertan spirit, our determination and are helping us tell an Alberta story that will be a big part of the reason we will be successful on our fundraising goals.” — Phoebe Dey, vice-president of communications and marketing, Alberta Cancer Foundation

Chris Powell