Visitors to This Open House in Canada Found an Elaborately Staged and Disturbing PSA

Seeing poverty with The Salvation Army

It was advertised like an ordinary real-estate open house, at a residence that looked fine on the outside. But when visitors came for a look inside, they got an eerie surprise—a glimpse at how people can be living in poverty even when they have a roof over their heads.

The Salvation Army and Grey Canada were behind the "Open House" stunt, which has a robust online presence, where you can tour the house yourself. The home is representative of a family living in poverty, and contains plaques and visual displays highlighting the struggles of the more than 300,000 Canadians who live under the poverty line.

The campaign includes the long-format video below, which features hidden-camera footage of real people walking through the house.

"A few days prior to the open house, we put up flyers in the area and in surrounding business storefronts and placed signage throughout the neighborhood," Darlene Remlinger, president of Grey Canada, tells AdFreak. "The house was completely staged using items and goods found at a local Salvation Army depot. Upon entering the home, a 'real estate agent' was on hand to welcome prospective buyers and gave them a short explanation of the campaign. The open house footage was captured with 20 hidden cameras placed in cupboards, and every room of the house."

The goal was to change the perception of those living in poverty in Canada, Remlinger says.

"Most Canadians think people in need live on the streets. But this is far from reality," she says. "One in 10 Canadians struggle to make ends meet, even with a roof over their head. Our idea was to open the doors and invite the public into the everyday home and circumstances of a family living in poverty. We wanted to show how poverty can live on your street or in your neighborhood. It's just not always easy to see."

"Thanks to our generous donors, The Salvation Army assisted over 1.8 million Canadians with food, shelter and other practical assistance last year," says John McAlister, national director of marketing and communications. "We're passionately committed to eradicating poverty and caring for people who are struggling. This initiative will help educate the public about what it means to live in poverty—and what they can do to help."

All media planning and placement was handled by MediaCom.

Campaign Title: Poverty Isn't Always Easy to See
Client: Salvation Army

Agency: Grey Canada
Chief Creative Officer: Patrick Scissons
Creative Director: Joel Arbez
Creative Director: James Ansley
Art Director: Ryan McNeill
Writer: Sue Kohm
Account Executive: Kit Kostandoff
Producer: Erica Metcalfe
Print Producer: Elizabeth Macaulay
Mac Artist: Steven Lobel
Director of Technology and UX: Marc Cattapan
Developer: Darren Neville
Digital Producer: Jaan Yew Woon

Production Company: Skin and Bones Film Company
Director: Fraser White
Executive Producer: Liane Thomas
Line Producer: Jeff Schwartz
Director of Photography: Mark Peachey

Editorial: Saints Editorial
Executive Producer: Michelle Lee
Editor: Robin Haman

Post Production: Alter Ego
Executive Producer: Cheyenne Bloomfield
Colourist: Tricia Hagoriles
Online: Steve McGregor

Music and Sound Design: Grayson Matthews
Executive Producer: Kelly McCluskey