A boy suffering from kidney failure isn't weak. He's a gladiator about to step into the ring for battle.
So says a gorgeous, jaw-dropping new campaign from SickKids Hospital—or as it's more formally known, The Hospital for Sick Children—in Toronto.
In the centerpiece anthem, titled "SickKids VS: Undeniable," ailing children, alongside their families, doctors, nurses and other hospital staff, all gird for battle—as medieval soldiers, pro wrestlers taking baseball bats to dialysis machines, and comic book superheroes.
It's a gripping two-minute argument from agency Cossette—more than anything, for the power of imagination as a vehicle for hope, and metaphor as a medical tool. Anyone who has struggled through a serious illness, or watched someone else do it, knows that defiance isn't to be undervalued. This takes that basic insight to new heights, with enough of a playful tone to match and address its core subjects.
More than 50 SickKids patient families agreed to participate in the film, and 100 staff members from the hospital also lent a hand, on or off camera.
To be clear, the fight imagery—interspersed with medical animations, neon motion graphics naming diagnoses, and dramatic footage of life-or-death moments during care for context—is impressive in its own right. But it's the soundtrack, "Undeniable" by Donnie Daydream featuring Richie Sosa, that pushes the spot into extraordinary territory.
A bone-crushing rap, driven by a steadily pounding kick drum, perpetually crescendoing synth bass, militaristic snare patterns, and haunting, echoing crashes and yelps, it's no surprise that the song (or versions of it) have already found a home in other high-profile ads from Finlandia Vodka and Adidas.
None used it as effectively, though, as Cossette does here. That's thanks partly to the intrinsically sympathetic subject matter. But it's also because the war-themed concept, the Olympic-style execution and the blood-raising music combine to create an experience far greater than the sum of their parts. Even during moments that might risk seeming cheesy, the spot will take an emotionally engaged viewer on a rapid-fire trip—through uplifting highs, and endearing quips, and gut-wrenching lows, then back again—ending, appropriately, with a kid channeling a tiger's roar.
The only problem may be, in fact, that the message comes across too clearly, and could be mistaken for overpromising in a field—medicine—that can, at its best, only delay the inevitable, and in some cases not by nearly enough. It's worth emphasizing, for that reason, that the campaign's ultimate purpose is to fundraise for the hospital, including research into new treatments. In other words, it's not just speaking to specific kids' battles, but the broader goal—to win them all.
To that end, three more TV spots under the "SickKids Vs." umbrella will roll out through the end of December, with support across print, digital, out-of-home, and cinema. OMD handled media planning and buying. More print work and full credits are below.
Client: The Hospital for Sick Children
Chief Creative Officer(s): Carlos Moreno, Peter Ignazi
Creative Director/CW: Craig McIntosh
Creative Director/AD: Jaimes Zentil
Agency Producer: Dena Thompson
Account Supervisor(s): Olivia Figliomeni, Daniel Dolan Account Director: Hanh Vo
VP, Brand Director(s): Michelle Perez, Steve Groh Chief Strategy Officer: Jason Chaney
Production House: Skin & Bones
Director: Mark Zibert
DOP: Jackson Parrell
Executive Producer: Dan Ford Line Producer: Joan Bell
Editing House: Skin & Bones
Editor: Marka Rankovic Transfer/Online Facility: The Vanity
Flame Artist: Sean Cochrane Colorist: Andrew Exworth
Animation: The Mill NYC
Animation: a52 Audio House: SNDWRX Music Creative Director: Didier Tovel
Song: Undeniable – by Donnie Daydream Feat: Richie Sosa
Clients VP, Brand Strategy and Communications: Lori Davison
Director, Integrated Brand Marketing: Kate Torrance
Director, Digital Projects: Mark Jordan
Manager, Patient Ambassador Program: Lisa Charendoff
Marketing Manager: Tina Tieu Marketing Manager: Harleen Bhogal
Coordinator, Public Relations: Madeline Salerno