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Why a Canadian Foundation Filmed a 24-Hour PSA about Caregiving



The team from McCann Toronto and Petro-Canada CareMakers Foundation’s Leila Fenc discuss the hidden lives of caregivers across Canada, and what it took to represent them, writes LBB’s Josh Neufeldt

Why a Canadian Foundation Filmed a 24-Hour PSA about Caregiving

According to the Petro-Canada CareMakers Foundation, an estimated 46% of Canadians (or 13 million people over the age of 15) have provided some type of unpaid care to a chronically ill, disabled, or ageing friend or loved one. Over one-quarter (28%) have provided unpaid care in the last 12 months, and in the case of those caring for their families, 21% spend 20 hours or more during any given week on this task. If this is new information, that’s because family caregiving often happens in private. Even though it’s a responsibility which affects many people across the country, it’s also rarely talked about. Unfortunately, that leaves these unsung heroes without the support they need both physically and mentally. 

Enter McCann Toronto. Partnering with the Foundation, the two worked together to give Canadians an honest and insightful look at what caregiving looks like by creating ‘24 Hours of Care’ a documentary intended to shine a light on the challenges family caregivers face on a day to day basis. Supported by a long-format film, the core creative saw Skin and Bones director Jennifer Roberts travel across the country, spending 24 hour periods with caregivers and their families while capturing what this responsibility actually entails.

The resulting film can be viewed on the campaign website. There are also 15, 30 and 60-second spots which serve as PSAs designed to educate, inform and generate support for the millions who give care every day. 

LBB’s Josh Neufeldt say down with McCann Toronto group account director Sarah Lostracco, strategy director Liam Brown, CCO Josh Stein, senior art director Kyle Shields and senior copywriter Aaron Peever, with Petro-Canada CareMakers Foundation executive director Leila Fenc to learn more about how this campaign came to life. 

LBB> What was the brief for this campaign like? 

Leila> At some point in their lives, more than half of Canadians provide unpaid care to a family member or friend with a long-term health condition, physical or mental disability, or age-related need. These caregivers play an integral role in supporting relatives, friends and neighbours, and they often go unrecognised and unsupported. The goal of the Petro-Canada CareMakers Foundation is to raise awareness of, and support for the essential work of family caregivers. 

Given that we only launched in 2020, our goal, and our ask of McCann, was to help us raise awareness of the Foundation and its work, but also to raise awareness around the issue of family caregiving and the challenges they face. 

McCann> The brief was to make a 30-second PSA. We took that brief and thought about what this campaign needed to be. The Petro-Canada CareMakers Foundation is new. People don’t know about it or even what it does. We needed to use this as a way to explain to Canadians why what the Foundation does is so important. Family caregiving isn’t a cause supported by many charities in Canada, so we had to bring awareness not just to the Foundation, but the cause itself. 

LBB> Creating a 24-hour PSA about what it takes to be a caregiver is a great cause. How did this idea come to pass, and how did it develop during the early stages of the campaign? 

McCann> When we were briefed, one of the most striking pieces of information we came across was the amount of time family caregivers devote to their loved ones. On average, a caregiver spends 19 hours per week giving care. And because no two caregiving relationships are exactly the same, we thought using time would be a powerful way to tell a unified story that spoke to all caregiving relationships while also breaking through emotionally for the viewer. As we were playing with the notion of the time that goes into caregiving, we felt that the only way to give an honest look at what it’s like to be a caregiver would be to just show a full, unfiltered day in their life. And that’s how we arrived at making a 24-hour film. 

Caregiving is a job that doesn’t give time-off, breaks, or vacations. Family caregivers in many situations are on call 24/7 - and we thought the best way to raise awareness for the cause was to just simply show Canadians what that looked like. 

Leila> So many Canadians - more than 8,000,000 - are family caregivers, and there isn’t a single story that represents everyone’s situation. We wanted a campaign that emphasised how caregiving looks different for each person, while acknowledging the selflessness and dedication that underscores the caregiving experience overall. 

The other key factor we wanted to showcase was that for many family caregivers, providing care is a 24-hour commitment, and work they take on in addition to their job, school, or other professional and personal commitments. Those were core themes reflected in the ‘24 Hours of Care’ campaign. 

LBB> Learning about what it takes to be a caregiver is no small task. What was the research process like, what were the key takeaways, and was anything you learned surprising? 

McCann> While a lot of research was provided to us by our clients, as well as a lot of work they had done in various white papers leading up to their brief, we also did a lot of our own research. We knew from the client that one in four (over eight million) Canadians are caregivers, and that caregivers spend an average of 19 hours caregiving - all of which is on top of paid work and family commitments. But, we wanted to go further. We combed through research papers to get at the overall effects of being a caregiver. It was incredibly instructive. Everything from stress to suicidal thinking increases in the caregiver population. The big scary stat was that nearly 31% of unpaid family caregivers reported seriously considering suicide in the preceding 30 days, compared to 11% in the non-caregiver population. It made us realise we had to show the true burden of what these caregivers do, especially since caregivers rarely talk about what they are going through. 

Leila> We were able to tap into data available from a number of sources, all of which emphasise how common it is for Canadians to be a family caregiver. Given that, it’s not surprising that many caregivers say that spending time with a loved one is a good and positive thing.
Importantly (and less commonly discussed) is that while there are really positive caregiving experiences, there are significant impacts on the person providing care - notably on their own health and well-being.

LBB> Why was a focus on multiple families across Canada over a 24-hour period the right approach for this campaign, compared to something like a longer focus on a single family? 

McCann> There are many types of caregiving, from parents taking care of their child to a child taking care of their parent, and everything in between. It was important for us to show this range in order to bring awareness to the issue of caregiving, and how it impacts so many people in so many different ways.

Caregiving is so unique to each situation. The roles and responsibilities are different depending on the needs of the person you are caring for. It was an important part of raising awareness to ensure that we represented as many relationships as possible. 

LBB> How did you find the families to feature in the film and campaign? What was the process like of getting in touch with them, and do you have any stories to share from your time with them? 

McCann> We worked with a casting house, Groundglass Casting, that specialises in casting real people. Caregivers who were interested submitted information about themselves and the person they care for, and from there we had the tough job of narrowing down the list to interview and then select for the campaign. We wanted to showcase people from across the country who were of different ages and backgrounds, with different caregiving scenarios.

LBB> What made Jennifer Roberts the right director for the job? 

McCann> Jennifer has a background as a photojournalist and a documentarian, so she has a ton of experience not only working with real people, but doing so with compassion, care, and honesty. She made it a priority to develop a relationship with the families in the film ahead of time, and that really made a difference when we were on set. She made sure the families knew they could trust her with their stories, so when we were shooting, Jennifer and the camera could just melt into the background and we got to watch them just live their lives honestly. 

LBB> A key theme of the shorter spots is the minimal dialogue and heavy use of sound - from the pill container being snapped shut to the crying. What inspired the approach, and what did it take to achieve this result? 

McCann> We wanted to give the viewer a raw, emotional look at the struggles that go into caregiving, and give them a chance to put themselves in the caregivers’ shoes. Keeping dialogue minimal and leaning instead on sound design helped build and maintain the tension throughout the spot. Achieving this took a little bit of planning, but also a nimble sound crew and an excellent team of sound engineers once we got to post-production. On set, our sound team were always on the lookout for anything that might be interesting, emotional, or help tell the story. As we didn’t want to interfere with the families we were filming, they would often discretely slide the mic just close enough to capture the sound, while never interfering with the action. Then, the team at TA2 Sound + Music tweaked and punched up the sound while balancing it with an original score. 

We also over-planned potential shots knowing only a fraction would make it into the final spot. We wanted as many options and choices to work with when we got into the editing process, so we had a big list heading into the shoot, and then continued to collaborate over the month of shooting to add new ideas and potential shots to our list. Nothing was rehearsed or directly requested, so it was more of an exercise in waiting to see when certain things would happen, and then making sure we were there to capture it. The goal was always to use sound design to drive/influence the theme of time, and the always-on nature of being a caregiver. 

LBB> Incorporating the key message into 60-second, 30-second and 15-second spots would have been a big challenge. How did you go about ensuring the shorter cuts carry the same weight as the original? 

McCann> When shooting, our primary focus was making a 24-hour film that gave an honest, unfiltered look at the lives of family caregivers. We needed to fill 24 hours with the highlights and lowlights of caregiving. When it came time to edit down for our broadcast spots, there was so much content to choose from. The 60-second spot is the 24-hour film distilled down to a minute. Then, we just kept going. We were very careful to make sure we didn’t treat the cut-downs as an afterthought, and the 15-second spots were given as much care and planning as the 60-second spot. 

With the 15-second spots, we found an opportunity to use media placements to help emphasise our message and play with the theme of time. That’s why we created four distinct 15-second spots that were each centred around a different time of day: morning, afternoon, evening, and night. The plan was to make sure viewers were served an ad that corresponded to their current time of day - so if you’re scrolling Instagram over breakfast, you’re going to see what caregiving looks like in the morning. Working with the media team and editors to create these time-specific spots really helped keep the messaging and story fresh, no matter how you watched the spots.

LBB> What challenges have you faced during this project? How did you overcome them? 

McCann> We learned that a PSA can be so, so much more than what media companies generally produce. It was important for us to take a step back at the time of the initial brief and really think about what made the most sense for the campaign. As a PSA with limited budget, we needed to find a way to stand out.

As such, a campaign that features a 24-hour video was both a good solution, but also something that we had never done before. We trusted the process, we trusted our partners and we trusted our clients, and they all trusted us. There was a lot of learning as we went, and troubleshooting along the way. 

LBB> What has the initial response to the campaign been like? 

McCann> The initial response has been overwhelming. We’ve received a lot of comments from caregivers who are appreciative of the story we are telling and how they can relate to it. We’ve been getting incredibly powerful messages of love and appreciation from people we featured in the film, and from people who saw the campaign in market. It feels like we’ve raised awareness about something important, and it feels good to know that it’s resonating with caregivers and non-caregivers alike.

LBB> What did the chance to be involved in this campaign mean to you? 

McCann> It was a very humbling and moving experience. Being part of something like ‘24 Hours of Care’, where you feel like you’re doing something to make a difference doesn’t happen all the time, and the whole team is grateful to be part of it. A lot of us have our own experience with caregiving - whether personally or through family and friends - and it gave us a newfound respect for what they do on a daily basis. 

LBB> Is there anything you’d like readers to know about the Foundation and the work you do?

Leila> Our Foundation’s work focuses on several key areas: to build awareness of the challenges faced by family caregivers, to raise funds for our cause, and to provide funding to charities in Canada that offer the critical resources and programs needed by family caregivers. In two short years, we’ve provided almost $4 million in grants to registered charities across the country. I’m very proud of that. 

Additionally, our hope is that the campaign will expand Canadians’ understanding of family caregiving. We’re also hoping that people will have a bit of an ‘aha’ moment and appreciate that for many caregivers, the support they’re providing is not optional. It’s critical to their loved one’s well-being. 

LBB> Is there anything else people should know about this campaign, and how can Canadians offer their support to caregivers across the country?

McCann> Our website, is designed to give you a preview of what a caregiver is doing at the exact moment you are visiting the site. We also added an interactive clock that allows the viewer to scroll through the video and experience different parts of the day – in hours, minutes or pre-selected moments. 

Leila> If there’s someone in your life who is a family caregiver, start by asking if they’re okay. A simple act of kindness can go a long way toward making the family caregiving experience better. There are resources on our website that may be helpful. And, there’s information across all our channels about our fundraising activities. Canadians can also donate to CareMakers directly from our website and receive a tax-deductible receipt. Through our grants, these funds support charitable organisations in their communities.

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McCann Canada, Tue, 13 Dec 2022 17:00:03 GMT