Meet Preemi, a stuffie for preterm babies

Who: The Canadian Premature Babies Foundation, with DDB Canada for strategy, creative and media, Makers for fabrication.

What: “Preemi,” a new cuddly toy designed exclusively for premature babies, timed to coincide with World Prematurity Day (Nov. 17). The prototype toy was developed using research on premature babies, in association with NICU nurses and parents of preemies.

When & Where: A limited-run of the Preemi was distributed to premature parents, and DDB and CPBF are now in talks with manufacturers to create a larger run. There’s also a dedicated microsite that contains information on premature birth and the support services provided by CPBF, and donated media supporting a programmatic buy.

Why: About one in 10 births in Canada are premature, and according to the World Health Organization, complications arising from preterm birth were the leading cause of death among the approximately five million children who died before the age of five in 2020.

The Preemi toy is designed to drive awareness around the challenges faced by families who have a preterm baby, while encouraging discussion about the need for stronger support systems to improve experiences for the babies and their families.

“Preemi is a joyful way to start a conversation about the specific developmental needs of premature babies, and how CPBF can help with that journey,” said DDB’s executive creative director, Rica Eckersley. “As well, it makes the community of preemie parents feel seen and understood—finally, something made just for them.

How: Developed by DDB in association with Makers, the Preemi has several distinct features that make it suitable for premature babies, including an internal device that mimics a mother’s heartbeat, and a coiled tail that imitates the umbilical cord.

Each Preemi toy also contains antimicrobial material that protect premature babies’ sensitive immune systems, and a black and white colour scheme that supports developing vision.

A personal campaign: The CPBF contacted DDB Canada about this assignment shortly after joined the agency in May. The campaign has personal meaning for Eckersley, whose now six-year-old son Alfred was born six weeks premature and spent a month in NICU.

“I would wake almost every day and not have my son with me,” said Eckersley. “I’d get up and go to the hospital and spend my first days with him in a hospital setting. It was a tough time—I was feeling all the emotions day in and day out.

“The experience of being a premature parent is something that nobody can truly understand until they go through it” said Eckersely. “It had such an emotional connection for me right from the start. People making baby toys or commercials aren’t talking to preemie parents, ever, so I felt really left out. That was the insight this was born from.”

Some moms who had lost premature babies have reached out to the CPBF to say that they would like to own Preemi as a way of commemorating their child. “It was a gratifying piece of feedback from the community, that it was not just to celebrate the babies that have survived and thrived,” said Eckersely.

And we quote: “I feel like we’re on a mission to make these for the foundation as a fundraising tool, just because it resonated so well with the community. I wasn’t expecting people to say ‘I have to have one,’ but that’s been the overwhelming response from the parents of premature babies.” — Rica Eckersely, executive creative director, DDB Canada

Chris Powell