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FTW Friday: Woodgreen’s ad campaign turns celebrity gossip on its head

Simon Treanor


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To me, the mark of good writing is taking something that everyone is familiar with, and presenting it in such a way that it surprises the reader. When that also highlights the struggles of those living in poverty, it helps improve the lives of everyone. Take  Toronto’s Woodgreen Community Services’ recent ad campaign.  For the last 75 years, its goal has been to help those who are less fortunate in the Ontario area find their feet, and to give them a chance to find sustainable work and a healthy lifestyle.

The recent campaign has been for the Homeward Bound program, and is aimed at helping single mothers in disadvantaged areas earn college diplomas and start careers. But what makes this ad so effective? Well, simply: it breaks from tradition—and, as a result, is much more poignant. The whole focus of the ad campaign is showing us the real lives of single mothers—as if they were celebrity gossip.

Now, I don’t read much of the stuff, but even I can recognize that Woodgreen and DDB Canada have hit the nail perfectly on the head with their format. Huge garish headlines splashed across the page, ridiculous close up shots of items/locations, an absolutely fantastic T.V commercial mimicking “60 seconds” celebrity news updates that plague channels like MTV. Having such bright, over the top colours and tones to some appalling  situations creates such a strong contrast, and the effect is superbly powerful.

Denise Rossetto, the executive creative director at DDB Canada, had this to say on the ad campaign:

Our creative is a parody of popular celebrity media culture, but instead of celebrity-focused stories, it features hard-hitting headlines about struggling single mothers and the real hardships they face each day.  Learning about celebrities is fun, but we want people to recognize that there are many others who are in greater need of our attention and support.

By using this format, and using it to promote such serious matters, it brings into focus how flippant some of our major concerns can be. Ads like these that are so much more relatable make for a much stronger statement than any black and white montage set to heart-breaking music.

More Information about the project can be found on the Woodgreen Homepage, as well as

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