One Hero

Events, Seasonal and Short-Term (BRONZE)

Client Credits: Canadian Blood Services
Canadian Blood Services
Virginia Gaffney (National Advertising & Creative Development Manager)

Agency Credits: DDB Canada
Rapp, a division of DDB
Barb Williams (Executive Creative Director) Rapp, a division of DDB
Eric Grimes (Copywriter) Rapp, a division of DDB
Carla Rimando (Art Director) Rapp, a division of DDB
Heung Lee (Flash)
Caroline Clarke (Agency Producer/Interactive) DDB Canada
Leigh Farlow (Account Coordinator), Jonn Davis (Account Coordinator)
Susan McGregor (Account Supervisor), Susan Powell (Account Director)
Parker Mason (Strategist) Tribal Worldwide, a division of DDB
Kevin McHugh (Analytics)
Production Company: STOPP/LA
Zachery Richter (Creative Director)
Abraham Cortes (Art Director)
Ola Björling (Technical Director)
Jin Kim (Lead Developer)
Justin Young (Animator)
Fredrik Montan Frizell (Executive Producer)
Kristen Koeller (Senior Integrated Producer)
Gary Musgrave (Illustrator)
Ian Persson Stiernsward (Music Composer)
Interactive Sound Production: Plan 8
Media Agency: OMD
Michelle Jaraim, Dan Stanisz (Digital Specialist), Tyler Gain (Strategy Supervisor)


CBS_154.mp4 (113 MB)

Total 1810 Words


Business Results Period (Consecutive Months):September 2013 – September 2014
Start of Advertising/Communication Effort: October 2013 – December 2013
Base Period as a Benchmark: This was a new endeavour for CBS.

a) Overall Assessment

The truth around the not-for-profit sector in Canada is that the donor population is aging. That’s fine when you’re looking for money, but not when you need stem cell and marrow donors, which is exactly what Canadian Blood Services is always trying to collect. And in an aging donor-population, finding optimal matches was getting more and more difficult.


CBS needed help shoring up their donor lists with eligible donors. And with recent research showing that procedures involving stem cells taken from young males tend to have greater success rates, we knew we needed to focus on a new target – 17-35 year-old males.


Over 1000 people in Canada need a stem cell donation to save their lives. However, only 25% of them will find a match within their family. This leaves the other 75% in need of the One Match Stem Cell and Marrow Network.


Meanwhile, in the over-crowded not-for-profit landscape, there are so many charities fighting for attention. We know our target is a niche, hard-to-reach audience and they’re very savvy to marketing messages and charitable requests, so engaging them was always going to be a difficult task. 


Plus, when it comes to Advisory opinions on messages directed to consumers for prescription drugs and on educational material discussing a medical condition/disease, the PAAB – as well as Advertising Standards Canada (ASC) – provide advisory opinions on messages directed to consumers for prescription drugs and on educational material discussing a medical condition/disease to ensure that they meet the regulatory requirements.


Therefore, Canadian Blood Services insists that anyone wishing to sign up to be a part of the One Match Stem Cell and Marrow Network must give informed consent. As a result, potential donors have to complete a ten-question knowledge test with regards to the stem cell donation procedure before they are eligible to register and submit a swab kit for testing. So when we did get through to our intended target, we still had to help them overcome this added obstacle. 

b) Resulting Business Objectives

Our overall objectives for the campaign were to increase the number of donor registrations in the 17-35 year old male target group. In addition, we needed to raise overall public awareness of stem cell donations both nationally and internationally.

We didn’t really have hard objectives as anything short of 100% participation would leave room for improvement.

c) Annual Media Budget
$100,000 - $200,000

d) Geographic Area
There was global reach with this campaign. However, in order to participate and, ultimately, register, you had to be a Canadian citizen. Therefore, the focus of the campaign was national.

a) Analysis and Insight

Research showed that that young, male donor stem cells – particularly from one’s own ethnic background – result in the most successful matches. Right from the original briefing, we knew this targeting strategy was key to our success. We would find our insight from that, and not necessarily from a brand truth seeded in CBS.


We needed to increase the number of donor registrations in the 17-35 year old male target group, and to raise public awareness of stem cell donations both nationally and internationally.


The only way we would be able to achieve our goals was by immersing ourselves in our target’s world – and we needed to do so physically to gain their trust. After all, with an audience this savvy, inundated by and wary of marketing messages, we couldn’t just tell them what to do.  We needed to educate them though meaningful engagement. We needed to make them WANT to take part.


The deeper we dug, the closer we got to our insight. The fact that this target is immersed in social media told us we needed to appeal to their sense of ego. We had to make them the centre of our engagement strategy. And the more we learned about their online behavior and uncovered the kind of entertainment they were seeking, the clearer our insight became.


Our target indexed incredibly high in the tendency to enjoy online gaming and online comics and graphic novels. This is the pillar which held up our campaign: Our target were the heroes the country needed.


The One Hero campaign engaged our target and made them the focus of the experience. They were brought into an immersive comic-book world in which they were the hero.


One Hero, mirrors the real-life drama of a stem cell donor saving the life of a patient battling leukemia.  As users progress through the story, they’re educated on the process of donating stem cells.  Once they’ve reached the end, they are offered the chance to save a real life by initiating the registration process on


It was a radically different approach in reaching out to our target group. We needed to create engaging content in the digital space that our target occupies, but it would also have to educate. Our target had to feel like a hero, who held the power to save a life.


The campaign lived digitally in a mobile-accessible format. The user was able to actually interact with the comic, rather than simply turn the page, and could explore the environment freely – a totally new and innovative way to read comic books. And a completely new and innovative approach for Canadian Blood Services.

b) Communication Strategy

not entering Best Insight.

a) Media Used

The primary platform for communication was the microsite at This was a parallaxing, animated site using HTML5, CSS3 and javaScript to transform the user's scroll into a digital turn of the comic book page, unravelling an immersive story told across five chapters, encompassing 26 frames and over 200 individual images.  


Our site was supported by digital banner ads across relevant sites, teasing at the content without fully revealing that it was connected to Canadian Blood Services. Additional, paid social advertising helped drive further awareness on Facebook amongst our target, driving them online to take part. We reached out to comic-book influencers and used rich media advertising for the first six weeks of the campaign.

b) Creative Discussion

With the explosion of social media, we know that our target is pretty happy putting themselves at the center of any story. Instagram, Twitter and Facebook all make that pretty clear.


Pair that with the rise of the comic industry – Marvel and DC movies, Comicon madness and graphic novel followings – and we had an idea what our engagement strategy should be.


We were looking for heroes; those ready, willing and able to save lives. So we chose to help our target realize their potential and made them the heroes of our story.


When donors first came across our banners, intrigue brought them to the site. If they were scouring the comic-book blogs and podcasts for the latest and greatest, they came across our message. These online executions were our Bat signals.


When users arrived at the site, they were in our environment. The artwork and story held true to every comic-book trope. Our messaging told a harrowing story, with a little education sprinkled here and there for good measure.

We held true to our environment and the conceits because we knew that was the only way we would be able to keep our users’ attention. To draw them in and then blow it on the site would betray their trust and we would lose them right away. Instead, we drew them in with intrigue and rewarded their trust with a truly immersive experience. One that was right up their alley.

c) Media Discussion

In going after a younger male target, we had to go online. And we had to be smart about it.


We knew that to draw them into our story, we’d have to intrigue them. We bought space on relevant sites; ones we knew our target frequented, and teased a new comic, one about the search for a new hero. We didn’t even fully reveal our story was connected with CBS. But our online outreach didn’t end at banner ads and rich media.


When it comes to the online comic-book community, integrity is key. If we wanted to use this group to our best advantage, we had to reach out to the right influencers and we needed to get them on board our campaign – one which put their passion at the forefront. We found the right voices to speak to our target through an exhaustive search and we told them our story. When they learned what we were trying to do and how we were trying to do it, they were more than happy to help out.

Now we had the online presence and the integrity of influencers to back us up. From here, we just had to tell one wicked story. And that’s just what we did when users came to the One Hero site.

a) Sales/Share Results

Our primary goal was to increase registrants to the program within our 17-35 year-old male target – an incredibly difficult demo to get to, let alone get through to. We succeeded with a 30% lift in new registrants compared to the same time last year. 

We also wanted to spread awareness, both nationally and internationally, about stem cell donation. Mission accomplished: in the three month launch period, we got 425,000 Twitter impressions and mentions from 46 different countries.


These impressive numbers resulted in over 58,000 unique site visits. Our time on site during the launch period was over 9mins, well above the industry standard. Clearly, our story resonated with this new target as did our message – donor registrations increased by 30%.


While the campaign is over, the site continues to be shared socially to this day, driving further stem cell donation registrants for Canadian Blood Services, and potentially saving more Canadian lives. 

b) Consumption/ Usage Results

c) Other Pertinent Results

d) Return on Investment

a) General Discussion

Before we even began concepting we knew that one of our biggest barriers would be the knowledge test portion of the experience. Anyone wishing to donate would have to fill out a ten-question test and get each answer correct before progressing to sign-up. We incorporated that info into our concept by changing the wording of the questions so that they followed the theme of the comic itself.


Despite our efforts to make the knowledge test as user-friendly as possible we did see a drop-off in users at this portion of the experience which was to be expected. However, drop-off rates decreased and, as stated, we actually saw a fairly significant lift in donors and completion.

b) Excluding Other Factors
Spending Levels:

As a registered Canadian charity, CBS isn’t spending money to make money. In fact, they’re being very careful about their budgets with an aim to maximize the names and donors garnered from every campaign. We weren’t carpet-bombing here. We were being very strategic with who we went after and how. It was the best way to use the budget we had to maximum effect.


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Distribution Changes:

Canadian Blood Services does not limit their reach. We want to reach as many people as budget will allow with every campaign. This campaign was no exception. As was our wont, we reached out to possible donors coast-to-coast.

Unusual Promotional Activity:

not applicable

Other Potential Causes:

not applicable