Blogs & Comment

Canadian melanoma awareness video goes viral

Agency talks about creating popular web film for David Cornfield Melanoma Fund.

Online audiences aren’t exactly known for their attention spans, and while most recent videos tagged with the viral label involve kittens, a fake Royal Wedding or Michael Bolton, a Canadian charity has garnered almost 1 million Youtube views in the last week with a five-minute melanoma awareness video called “Dear 16-Year-Old Me.”

The film is for the David Cornfield Melanoma Fund, a charity established by friends, family and colleagues of Cornfield, who passed away in 2005 at the age of 32 after a long battle with the disease. The fund commissioned Toronto agency Evidently, which also has offices Perth, Johannesburg and London, to create a web video that would raise awareness of both the charity and melanoma prevention.

I spoke with Marisa Caple, vice-president of Evidently’s Toronto office, about the creative process behind Canada’s latest viral hit.


What was the brief from DCMF and what made you take this approach?

They were pretty open with us from the start. It was just about raising awareness, but they knew they wanted to target a younger audience in their teens and early 20s, just because of how important it is to be aware of this at that point in your life.

 From there it really turned into figuring out how to get people to check. It’s great to be aware but how do we get people to want to check and make it part of their routine? The DCMF was wonderfully collaborative with us in figuring that out. We came back to them with some answers and this is where we ended up.

How did you find the stories and people in the video?

We usually do other types of work, formal casting and that sort of stuff but these are real people who really went through this. The fund members used their contacts to put out a call and got responses back from people who were generous enough to donate their time and story to this cause.

The video has got almost 1 million hits very quickly. Was there a formal seeding strategy or paid media?

There’s been no paid media for this campaign. The fund is a not-for-profit and made up of people who knew David and are doing this in their spare time. Because budget was pretty limited, from the start it was about trying to create something that people would share. We just wanted to make sure the content was compelling and really do justice to these people’s stories, hopefully so that you’d watch it and feel like you had to pass it on.

As part of the launch strategy it was physically screened last Monday night at a DCMF fundraiser to an audience of about 320. They engaged at the event, got the link the next morning and the spreading started from there. It’s on its own YouTube channel and posted on Facebook, which has been obviously huge in getting it out there.

The video clocks in at just over five minutes. Were there any second thoughts in terms of online viewer attention span? Or consider making a 30-second and 60-second version?

It was on our minds from start to finish. We’re always very wary of duration with online films because often shorter is better. But we do really genuinely believe people will watch something as long as they are engaged or entertained by it. So it was something we thought about, but ultimately we were happy with where the story and the content unfolded. Thankfully, most people are watching it right through to the end.