CDA’s unbranded awareness campaign targets youth

The Canadian Diabetes Association has a cool new campaign out, but you won't find its logo on it.

It’s 7a.m. and you’re weighing your breakfast options. You’re trying to be sugar savvy, so do you go with a bowl of instant oatmeal or a bowl of porridge?

Turns out that instant oatmeal contains 14 grams of sugar and the porridge only has 0.37. Who knew?

Chances are, not a lot of folks under 28. In an effort to bring sugar-related knowledge to the 18-27 set, Toronto’s Stephen Thomas (ST) recently created an awareness campaign for the Canadian Diabetes Association (CDA) to spread the word about such sugar-related facts.

In a unique twist, the campaign is completely void of CDA branding. There’s none on the NotWhatYouThought.ca microsite—which features a “Sugar Crash Course” quiz and a pledge visitors can sign about reducing their sugar intake—and none in the 15-second TV spot that’s running on MTV and MuchMusic through November, and online in pre-roll before MTV shows.

When the campaign launched on Nov. 1, there was a takeover on the MTV.ca site with a leaderboard banner ad, big box ad, video and imagery taken from the TV spot. But no CDA logo in sight.

It was a “big leap of faith for the culture of this organization where brand is everything” to go the unbranded route, said Mapy Villaudy, executive director, marketing and fund development at CDA. It has taken years for CDA to develop a trusted brand, but through discussions with its senior volunteer leadership and board of directors, CDA learned the brand wasn’t currently resonating with younger people, so to put it at the forefront of the campaign “probably wouldn’t have taken it very far.”

The decision to leave out CDA branding was intentional, said Bryan Tenenhouse, creative director at ST. It was ST’s idea to do so. “We didn’t want people to feel the facts were being shoved down their throats by a big organization,” said Tenenhouse. “So rather than a paternalistic message like ‘Don’t eat sugar,’ it was more like a fun, engaging spot that created intrigue to drive people to a microsite where they could find out what it was all about and maybe make some changes in their lives around sugar.”

The campaign isn’t about sugar you add to foods so much as it is about the foods you didn’t necessarily know contain so much sugar, said Tenenhouse.

The 18-27 target is quite a departure for CDA, so focus groups that ST conducted with the demo were helpful. They showed that this target doesn’t want to hear about long-term consequences of diabetes. “To say ‘If you get diabetes, you’ll lose a leg or could go blind’ wouldn’t work,” said Tenenhouse. “They’ll just turn it off.”

So, for the campaign’s microsite, Tenenhouse said it was really more about a preventative message talking about lifestyle and how people feel about themselves. The information on the website focuses ideas around how “you can crash from sugar, it makes you feel crappy and can affect your sleep and mood” said Tenenhouse.

Speaking to the groups that typically make up CDA’s donors and volunteers, Villaudy said they are usually 45 years old and up. “We’re now thinking ahead to who is our next generation of volunteer and donor,” said Villaudy.

The online campaign will return online in January and February.

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