VGH + UBC Hospital Foundation provides support to services across the health care spectrum – from patient care to research, rehabilitation, and local community health services. Their annual golf event ‘The Mr. Lube Tournament for Life’, which has taken place for the last sixteen years, attracts around 150 people, mainly higher-profile donors and businessmen, as well as their spouses/partners, and doctors. The purpose of the event is to help raise awareness and funds for prostate cancer research and treatment at the Vancouver Prostate Centre (VPC).

An opportunity existed to put more emphasis on the ’cause’ – something that had been missing from previous events. A tool was needed to help set the stage for the ‘Fund a Need’ component of the Tournament’s programming – a live-auction fundraising model (for specific cancer treatment-related needs like equipment) which had been very successful at the foundation’s other fundraising events.

Don Konantz, a gentleman living with advanced prostate cancer, and an enthusiastic advocate for the VPC, kindly agreed to share his story in support of the cause. It was determined that video would be an effective way to share Don’s story with the Tournament audience, and encourage them to support the cause by opening their wallets and making a donation.

The Foundation was also looking for a way to spread awareness about the VPC’s work, as well as the disease, and hoped that the communication tool would provide content for a subsequent email campaign.

The Challenge

The target audience is part of the baby boomer generation, the group currently most affected by prostate cancer. They are successful business leaders and well known among their peers, and have worked hard to become successful, presenting themselves as strong and confident. Generally, they don’t like to talk about illness – especially prostate cancer. It’s an uncomfortable subject, often associated with the notorious Digital Rectal Exam or ‘Cough Test’ required to test for the disease.

The perceived vulnerability associated with this exam contrasts starkly with the kind of male culture often associated with golf, making this a particular challenge.

Don had proven to be a wonderful advocate for prostate cancer awareness, having made many media appearances and interviews. But even though Don himself was a unique character, his story was not. With one in six men being diagnosed with prostate cancer, the chances were that the disease had in some way affected every audience member (whether it was someone they knew, a friend, a family member, or themselves). Because of its prevalence in Canada, they had likely all been touched by prostate cancer, making Don’s specific story less ‘extraordinary’. We did not want to paint Don as the sole champion in this fight. Each man who faces a diagnosis suffers through a similar journey, and while Don has been very vocal about his own story, we did not want to put him on a pedestal. We wanted to tell Don’s story in a way that spoke to allmen, giving his message an opportunity to reach far beyond his network and the Vancouver community.

We also had to take into consideration the environment in which the video was to be shown. After a full day of golf in a characteristically competitive (and male) setting, a sentimental approach would have been counter-effective. We wanted to encourage our audience members to pay attention to the key messages, and to consider making a donation–not to squirm uncomfortably in their seats!

The Solution

We pitched the idea of using animation to tell Don’s story, instead of a live interview format (as originally commissioned). By keeping the imagery of Don to a minimum, the audience could begin to imagine themselves as the affected individual, and thus relate more closely to his journey. Showing video footage of Don interacting with his family might have affected our secondary audience, that of women who are the spouses/partners of the primary audience, but would have had less of an effect on the latter.

After an exploratory meeting with Don, we developed a line of questioning that would help tell this story best. We conducted interviews with Don and Dr. Gleave separately, and took those audio tracks to build our story. An abstract visual style was chosen before the interviews, and storyboards based on this style were developed once the script had been constructed from the interview content. Upon approval of the script and storyboards the animation process began and continued to be finessed after various revision stages with the client.

The Results

The final video was first aired to an internal audience at the Foundation and received a Standing Ovation. It was then presented at the Tournament where it helped to raise over $460,000 – even higher than the goal for the event of $400k! It was also hosted on the Foundation’s website to support a subsequent email marketing campaign where it continues to help raise funds, seeing a much higher than average engagement rate – over 75%, compared to averages of 60-68% for online videos of a comparable length.