OPSEU’s dark depiction of a health system with ‘insufficient funds’

Who: The Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU), with Point Blank for strategy, creative and media; OPC for production (directed by Sophia Smith); and Vapor for audio.

What: “Our Lives Are Not For Profit,” a new ad campaign that paints a bleak picture of healthcare in Ontario if Doug Ford’s Conservative government is allowed to introduce more privatized options.

When & Where: The anchor video spot is live online now as a 75-second version, while a :30 is running on TV across Ontario. Other digital and outdoor components will roll out in June.

Why: Because concern about healthcare funding is a defining Canadian quality. In Ontario, OPSEU, which represents 180,000 public sector workers, says the Ford government is cutting support for public healthcare to degrade services and make private options more attractive.

“The Ford government is trying to deceive the public by offering privatization as the solution to a crisis it created by starving public hospitals and cutting healthcare workers’ pay,” said JP Hornick, OPSEU/SEFPO president, in a release.

The union cites Ontario Federation of Labour research which found that 79% of Ontarians believe healthcare is in crisis, 78% believe the solution is more money for the public system, and just 10% want more private alternatives.

“We needed a campaign to create discomfort and disrupt this scheme—to bridge the gap for those who don’t yet realize the damage that privatization will cause to our healthcare system and to communicate the urgency of taking action,” said Hornick.

How: the campaign kicks off with what Point Blank describes as a Black-Mirror-esque depiction of a woman being wheeled into surgery in a private clinic, where she’s constantly asked to pay for additional services. When she’s woken up mid-surgery to pay for more anesthesia, the automated system informs her that she has “insufficient funds.” Panic appears on her face as she realizes the worst fears about private healthcare.

“Our lives are not for profit,” reads the super, replaced by the OPSEU logo and a direct to SavePublicHealthCare.ca.

“The [target] audience are actually people who already prefer public healthcare over privatization, but are feeling that because public healthcare is currently strained, introducing more privatization might be the answer,” said Pierre Chan, executive creative director at Point Blank. “We aren’t actually targeting those who are already fully against privatization, as much as those who prefer public healthcare but are starting to welcome a bit more privatization—not thinking about how that’s a slippery slope.”

And we quote: “We’re hoping viewers will be shaken outside of their comfort zones and understand that for-profit privatization is not just a hypothetical—it’s already a current and real threat. Investing in public healthcare and its workers is the only solution.”— Miranda Hassell, strategist, Point Blank

David Brown