For most people, facing adversity doesn’t mean bravely addressing charges after ramming your luxury convertible into a bush. It doesn’t mean magically losing 20 pounds of baby weight before Oscar season, and it rarely involves foreign strippers. Somehow, though, reality star breast implants always seem to trump the reality of single moms pulling themselves and their kids out of the shelter system. Or at least that was the case until one ad campaign decided to create a new kind of tabloid, one that projected a little more truth.
DDB Canada’s executive creative director Denise Rossetto had been reading the paper one morning when she spotted an article about a unique, Toronto-based program aimed at lifting women out of poverty. Woodgreen Community Centre’s four-year Homeward Bound project pushes women in the shelter system through college courses, then partners those women with career-ready internships at banks, law firms, tech companies, and government agencies.
All the while, Woodgreen provides childcare support services for the children of single mothers. By the end of the program, the women have accomplished an incredible feat: Earning a college degree, living in affordable housing, and finding a job.
Rossetto brought the idea of a Homeward Bound campaign back to her agency, and a creative team agreed to take it on. The tabloid idea, Rossetto says, hit home. "It’s interesting that we don’t know as much about the people, the women, a street over from us, but we know everything about Justin Bieber and Kim Kardashian. Even if we don’t want to know about it, we know about it," Rossetto says. "We just thought that the balance was out of wack."
Woodgreen connected the agency to some of the women moving through the program, who then shared their stories for faux tabloid covers. "We learned how difficult it was for childcare, or how a lot of their aspirations were to get on their feet to help their children," Rossetto says. "Those are real women in the ads, and real women in the television spots, too."
Since launching the campaign in mid-January, Woodgreen has seen a tremendous uptick of interest in Homeward Bound. "We’ve had a huge response, a lot of supportive comments coming through," Anne Babcock, Woodgreen CEO, says. "One of the pieces of our program is that people can go to our site and sign a petition to increase funding for the program. And so being able to bring that experience to the forefront, and people being able to reflect on that is great too."
So far, 1,000 signatures have been added to petition the provincial government to increase funding. Online giving for the program is up, too, by 12%. It’s good timing; Homeward Bound is in the middle of an expansion plan to serve new neighborhoods in the fall.
"I think this whole opportunity is wonderful for us to get the word out about Woodgreen, because it is very, very unique to hear from the actual people who participate," Babcock says.