Mothers of Critically Ill Youngsters Helped Make the New SickKids Ad

Powerhouse stuff from Cossette and Mark Zibert

Moms of 10 critically ill children helped creative agency Cossette and director Mark Zibert craft a memorable Mother's Day message for SickKids Foundation. Their stories informed the harrowing tale, told vlog-style, from a young mom's perspective.

Squeezing a year of turmoil and travail into its two and half minutes, the film follows a typical family doing their damndest to cope as school-age Sebastian endures chemo treatments at SickKids Hospital in Toronto.

Though performed by actors—who really are a family off-camera—it's an intimate, raw and rivetingly realistic journey. Tears and fears become the stuff of daily existence, and the outcome for these brave souls remains in doubt until the final frames.

SickKidsMoms VS HardDays

So, it took 363 days just to get back to good. Not great. Or cured. Just good enough for mom to smile and dare to feel hopeful again. After 12 months, some semblance of normalcy returned, and Sebastian felt up to playing in the sun.

With deprivation and despair our watchwords in the Covid age, plenty of folks can surely relate to such struggles like never before.

Cossette based its day-in-the-life approach on social media posts from mothers of SickKids patients. The team interviewed 10 such moms, weaving their experiences and insights into the narrative. These brave, resilient women received writing credits on the spot, and appear in the clip below.

"Our brand platform is built on real stories and authenticity, and featuring real patients and families is a big part of how we tell that story," says Kate Torrance, SickKids vice president of brand strategy. "But due to Covid, for the first time in a long time, we decided to use a family of actors to portray these stories."

"After seeing the videos that SickKids moms were posting on social media, we realized just how effective this format of storytelling could be and we wanted to leverage that," adds Cossette executive creative director Jaimes Zentil. "It gives real insight into what life is really like for families right now."

The mommy-vlog style—shot by Cheryl Singh, who portrays the mother in the story—"makes it feel very current, and very personal—like you’re watching content created by someone you already know and love," Torrance says.

Past efforts from the Cossette-SickKids-Zibert triumvirate include "SickKids VS: Crews" focusing on hospital donors, a Grand Clio winner at Clio Health; stunning BTS shorts driven by a version of Nine Inch Nails' "Hurt"; and this iconic portrayal of ill youngsters as defiant gladiators.

Each campaign has its own flavor, an approach Torrance believes works best for the brand. "We take our cues from brands like Nike, whose 'Just Do It' platform has lent itself to hundreds of different kinds of stories and tones to the work over the years," she says.

The team hopes "to jolt people off the sidelines and get them into the fight," she says. "We’ve found that authentic storytelling that shows the strength and resilience of the patients, parents and staff is the best way to bring in new donors. We aim to show not just the need, but also the strength of moms—so that while potential donors feel empathy, they also feel inspired and motivated to get involved."

This new campaign supports the hospital's "Get Better Gifts" initiative, which helps provide for much-needed resources and care.


Client: SickKids Foundation
VP, Brand Strategy & Communications: Kate Torrance
Director, Brand Strategy & Communications: Roy Gruia
Associate Director, Community Stakeholder Relations: Lisa Charendoff
Associate Director, Integrated Brand Marketing: Tina Tieu-Lafrance
Marketing Manager: Jessica Myers

Agency: Cossette
Chief Creative Officer: Peter Ignazi
Executive Creative Director: Jaimes Zentil
Creative Director/Copywriter: Matt Antonello
Creative Director/Art Director: Kyle Lamb
Producer: Erica Metcalfe
Group Business Director: Daria Lysenko
Account Supervisors(s): Alex Hughes, Aline Cleve
VP, Strategy: Denika Angelone
Senior Strategist: Bella Ianetta

Production House: Scouts Honour
Director: Mark Zibert
Editing House: Outsider
Music & Audio: Rajakovic Electric
VFX: The Vanity

Cheryl Singh (Mother)
Ryan Singh (Father)
Sebastian Singh (Son/Patient)
Ava Singh (Daughter)

Simone Green
Cindy Tjon
Cyrena Ferreira
Crystal Costante
Nicole Boucher
Demetra Cotoulas-Pournaras
Gillian Ginesi
Jennifer Starycki
Kathy Shultz
Alana Kayfetz

SickKids Moms Interview Compilation Video:
Creative Director/Editor: Andrew Hart

GBG films / tactics:
VP, Direct & Digital Marketing: Heather Clark
Director, Product Marketing: Vanessa Teal
Manager, Product Marketing: Jillian Kuchard

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