What to Get for the Mom Who Wants ‘Nothing’ on Mother’s Day? This Touching Ad Has an Idea

SickKids Foundation urges donations

Some moms don't want anything for Mother's Day except a healthy child. SickKids Foundation

The moms in this commercial don’t expect the usual gifts for Mother’s Day.

“Nothing, nothing. I don’t want anything,” one says as the spot begins.

“No chocolates, jewelry,” adds another, while a third insists, “I don’t need a spa day. Mommy doesn’t need flowers. Mommy doesn’t need any of it.”

These are real moms whose children are struggling against life-threatening maladies, such as leukemia and brain tumors, at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children.

Each has a single, overpowering wish: for their kids to make speedy recoveries and return home to resume happy, healthy childhoods.

This marks the latest installment of the SickKids Foundation’s acclaimed, award-winning appeal from ad agency Cossette. The platform debuted two years ago with an extraordinary ad that portrayed stricken youngsters, their parents and hospital staff as courageous warriors. A later installment showed how tough it is to be the mom of a terminally ill child, and presented an inspiring plea from Ryan Reynolds.

“This Mother’s Day ad specifically zeroes in on how the rug of ‘normal’ gets violently pulled out from under you as the mother of a very sick child,” says Lori Davison, SickKids’ vice president of brand strategy and communications. “Everything else in life becomes inconsequential. It’s hard to imagine worrying about what you’d like for Mother’s Day.”

“We wanted to give a voice to the SickKids moms coping with this devastating circumstance,” she says, “and at the same time encourage other moms to think about asking for a gift that would actually lesson a SickKids mom’s burden” — specifically, by by making donations online through the “Get Better Gifts” program.

Thanks in large part to its marketing appeals, SickKids has set records for donations in each of the past three years, for a total of more than $420 million.

Like Teleflora’s Mother’s Day ads this year, this new SickKids work transcends the cloying materialism of Mother’s Day. The mood is surprisingly bleak—almost desperate. Of course, there’s light at the end of the tunnel, powered largely by viewers who support the cause.

“It is easy for people to become numb to advertising tropes,” Davison says. “Lucky for us, our creative and production partners have consistently produced work that has people anticipating the next entry–so they do tune in. And since they do, our job is to make them feel something they didn’t expect to feel and to think about something they have not thought about before. As long as we continue to do that, we will pull people into the cause and drive donations for SickKids. The emotion can change, but we always need to surprise and to some degree provoke.”

This approach flips the traditional notion of Mother’s Day on its head, inviting us to open our hearts, minds (and wallets). Ultimately, it cuts to the core of what it means to be a loving, caring, aware human being. Isn’t that what Mom would want?

Agency – Cossette
Global Chief Creative Officer(s): Carlos Moreno, Peter Ignazi
Art Director: Spencer Dingle
Copywriter: Jordan Hamer
Agency Producer: Dena Thompson
Strategy Director: Denika Angelone
SVP, Strategy : Rosie Gentile
Account Executive: Hillary Gonzalez
Account Director: Daniel Dolan
Group Account Director: Melissa Levenberg
VP, Director: Tishan Canagasaby
Production House: Skin & Bones Film Company
Director: David Quinn
DOP: Christopher Lew
Executive Producer: Liane Thomas
Line Producer: Joan Bell
Editing House: Skin & Bones Film Company
Editor: Marka Rankovic
Transfer /Online Facility: Alter Ego
Music House (s) : Massive Music + Berkeley 69 Toronto

Media Agency: OMD

Client: SickKids Foundation
VP, Brand Strategy and Communications: Lori Davison
Director, Integrated Brand Marketing: Kate Torrance
Director, Public Relations: Sandra Chiovitti
Associate Director, Community Stakeholder Relations: Lisa Charendoff
Marketing Manager: Tina Tieu-Lafrance
Coordinator, Public Relations: Madeline Salerno

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@DaveGian davegia@hotmail.com David Gianatasio is a longtime contributor to Adweek, where he has been a writer and editor for two decades. Previously serving as Adweek's New England bureau chief and web editor, he remains based in Boston.