A lot of SHST in this campaign to reduce overdoses in Timmins

Who: Timmins and District Health, with The Garden for creative and strategy, and Cairns Oneil for media.

What: “Know Your SHST” an awareness campaign for the new Safe Health Site Timmins that dispels myths about the safe injection site opened to reduce opioid overdoses in the city.

When & Where: The campaign began in May and ran through the opening of the SHST in early July, with an emphasis on outdoor and social media, driving to a special myths-and-facts website, SHST.ca.

Why: The northern Ontario city of 41,000 has one of the worst opioid overdose death rates in the country. Urgent action was needed in the form of a safe injection site, but the new Safe Health Site Timmins drew NIMBY-ish backlash from some in the community.

The Garden offered to help Timmins—hometown of the agency’s co-founder and chief creative officer Shane Ogilvie—by developing an awareness campaign that would help explain the community benefits of the SHST.

“The opening of this site is incredibly important to our city and a huge milestone in the larger drug strategy,” said SHST supporter Dr. Louisa Marion-Bellemare in a release. “That’s why it was so important to educate the community on the benefits and bring people onside, by showing how the site will save lives and open up avenues of treatment for people who use drugs and who are at the highest risk of morbidity and mortality.”

How: The creative campaign boldly plays with the SHST acronym, using familiar “shit” idioms such as “Get a load of this SHST,” “Let’s get our SHST together,” and “Know your SHST.” The cheeky headlines on the posters, billboards and social ads capture attention and redirect people to the website, where misconceptions can be corrected.

To kick off the campaign, The Garden projected “SHST just got real” onto the town’s famous McIntyre Framehead.

Using a place of community pride was a “highly contentious” move, said The Garden’s creative director Lindsay Eady. “It created the energy necessary for some really good discourse between those community members who were pro SHST and understood its benefits, and those against… That tension is what we were going for, and we got it in spades.”

David Brown