The Challenge

Second Harvest is Canada's largest food recovery and distribution charity, providing fresh food to the needy in the GTA and beyond. Our agency was asked to help with declining donations and to create a new brand narrative. With a very small budget we knew we had to think laterally to find success. We looked at their 2 existing fundraising events and saw a huge opportunity in Toronto Taste. For many years, their main fundraiser was Toronto Taste, but attendance and fundraising had been declining. In addition, the event had taken on such a foodie, high society vibe, that the cause itself became secondary and most attendees were neither donors or even that aware of what Second Harvest did. In addition, both participating chefs and sponsors were getting jaded, with some looking to back away from event.

The Insight & Strategy

We researched existing attendees of the event to uncover why they would pay $250 for a ticket to the event and reached out to lapsed attendees on why they did not come back. What we found out was 80% of attendees only had a vague idea of what Second Harvest did and more importantly what Toronto Taste did for Second Harvest. They saw the event as more of a society affair and after a few participations, many did not return. We realized that we had a high profile opportunity to connect the cause to the event with an emotionally driven narrative.

The Execution

In developing a compelling narrative, we knew we had to make it simple. We could not easily explain the complex process of taking excess fresh food from restaurants and grocery stores and getting it to people most in need. We wanted to show exactly what you bought for your high priced ticket. So contrary to previous creative shops, we did the math. We took the total operating budget for Second Harvest, for latest fiscal year, and divided it by how many meals Second Harvest delivered in that same year. Our answer? One dollar. That's right, when you buy a $250 VIP ticket to Toronto Taste, you are, in effect, delivering 250 meals! Our creative team took actual attendees and photographed them in our studio with some of the signature dishes of the participating chefs with the attendees using the headline: "I am eating for 250 people". These breakthrough ads appeared in all media including TV, billboards, print ads, digital ads and on-site signage.

We also realized one of the most powerful assets the client had were the celebrity chefs who showcased their food at the event. We convinced Mark McEwan to be featured in print, outdoor and TV spots with the header: "I am cooking for 500,000 people". Mark used his TV show and media engagements to talk up the event and the cause, which generated hundreds of thousands of dollars in earned media and buzz. We provided brand narrative supporting the connection to the cause for their web and PR efforts as well.

The Result

The event sold out for the first time in 3 years. In fact, the repositioning was so successful they had to move to a 50% larger venue in subsequent years. Even more importantly, fundraising after the event went up double digits for the first time in event history as attendees became donors because they understood for the first time exactly what they were investing in. Proof that we accomplished our goal of leveraging an existing event with established partners to build a strong connection to the cause came with the new Lunch Money Day campaign 7 months after Toronto Taste. We leveraged the same narrative with new creative and helped the client make the biggest fundraise for that event in the organization's history. The campaign won a number of international awards including market effectiveness and creative awards.

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