YMCA shows how it can help users overcome pandemic ‘Obstacles’

Who: The YMCA of Greater Toronto, with Outpost379 for strategy, creative and media; Scouts Honour for production (directed by Kevin Foley); The Vanity for post production; Outsider for editing; and 6 Degrees for audio.

What: “Obstacles,” a new campaign under the “Shine On” platform introduced last year with a goal of connecting more people to the YMCA’s programs while shining a spotlight on the organization’s charitable impact. It is the agency’s first consumer campaign under creative director Ben Steele, who joined earlier this year.

When & Where: The campaign is in market now, running throughout the year using a 90-second hero spot, complemented by 30, 15 and six-second ads; digital, radio, and out-of-home.

Why: The YMCA believes that the pandemic has demonstrated that basic necessities are not equally available to everyone, leading many of us to second guess ourselves and our abilities, intensifying emotional obstacles such as worry, self-doubt and fear.

The campaign is intended to showcase how with the YMCA’s support, positivity and guidance, people have the ability to “turn off” whatever’s holding them back.

“With this campaign, we wanted to bring to life the emotional obstacles the pandemic has brought on for so many for us, while showing how you can turn all those off, with the help of the Y, to allow your potential to shine,” said Steele, in a release. “I hope when people see this campaign, they relate to these very real emotions and experiences and are inspired to overcome whatever is holding them back.”

How: The 90-second hero spot was shot in YMCA locations throughout the GTA with real employees, volunteers and participants appearing alongside actors and people from across the GTA who were discovered through a public casting call.

Soundtracked by the Fasion song “Hold Up,” the spot shows people who are trepidatious and/or discouraged about participating in a YMCA program, only to slowly gain confidence. The accompanying supers feature messages like “Turn off doubt,” “Turn off worry,” “Turn off hesitation” and “Turn off isolation.”

And we quote: “The ‘Obstacles’ campaign, which communicates our Shine On brand, showcases how the charity’s breadth of programs help members of the community turn off feelings of hesitation, doubt, or fear and to instead turn on confidence, connections, and possibilities. As we work together to tackle the mental, physical and economic consequences of the pandemic, we all need hopeful and optimistic stories like these.” — Nora Gorman, senior vice-president, marketing and communications, YMCA of Greater Toronto

Chris Powell