Powerful and Touching, This Ad Captures the Heartbreak of Being Apart From a Sick Child

Cossette creates a stirring spot for Ronald McDonald House

Any distance can seem like an impossible distance when your child is sick. Ronald McDonald House

When you’re separated from your seriously ill son or daughter, even if only for a few hours or by a couple of miles, the time spent apart can feel like an agonizing gulf of anxiety and dread.

Canadian agency Cossette explores such notions of emotional distance in the memorably poetic spot below, promoting Ronald McDonald House BC and Yukon, which provides accommodations for 2,000 families every year who travel to Vancouver when their kids need major medical treatment.

Crafted in cinematic style by Common Good director Jamie Webster, the commercial, centerpiece of the client’s first mass-media appeal, unfolds in somewhat mysterious fashion and packs quite a punch without sliding into excessive sentimentality.

At first, the narrative’s extreme sets may throw viewers off balance. But its vibrant visuals quickly put us inside the head of a mom whose night away from her sick son seems, to her, like a soul-crushing eternity.

In the end, we get the message loud and clear: Adrift at sea, afloat in orbit, lost in a frozen wasteland—that’s how it feels to be apart from your child, even for a short time, when they’re in the hospital, fighting for their lives.

“We expect and want the audience to be a bit unsure of what’s going on when we transition from the ocean to space scene,” Pierre Chan, Cossette creative director, tells Adweek. “Then we continue to develop more intrigue in the Arctic tundra—creating a build-up of curiosity toward the reveal of the video and a bit of an ah-ha moment a split second after we see our mother on the tablet.”

The twists elevate RMH BC’s story over the powerful but increasingly familiar tear-jerkers this category often provides.

In a way, the work resembles Cossette’s lauded efforts for SickKids Foundation. Whether portraying children, parents and medical staff as fierce warriors from different eras, or telling us what some moms really want for Mother’s Day, ads for SickKids employ unexpected elements and deft storytelling to play on our emotions.

Here, the agency takes a similar approach.

“It is important for the audience to understand what RMH BC actually does, and differentiate it from other hospital charities,” says Chan. “This is why we opted to focus creative on the idea of distance in this campaign.”

Adds senior copywriter Cameron Spires: “The sad fact is, when you’re in a foreign city for your child’s medical treatment, you can’t just move the rest of the family into the hospital for months at a time. Being away from your kid, even across town, is a devastating feeling that we hope people will empathize with after seeing the spot. We hope that they’ll recognize RMH BC as a wonderful solution for this problem and a cause worth donating to.”

Ultimately, the ad accomplishes that goal by bringing us metaphorically closer to the plight of the parents in question, and giving us immediate, powerful insight into their understandably fraught frame of mind.


Janet Porter
Isaak Bailery

Agency: Cossette
Global Chief Creative Officers: Peter Ignazi and Carlos Moreno
Executive Creative Director: Michael Milardo
Creative Director: Scott Schneider, Pierre Chan
Art Director: Grace Cho
Copywriter: Cameron Spires
Agency Producer: Sue Bell
VP, Head of Strategy: Adam Collins
Strategist: Jared Gill
Account Supervisor: Cambrea Strubin, Sarah Moore, Faye Houston
Group Account Director: Scott Barr

Supplier Credits:
Film Company: Common Good
Director: Jamie Webster
DOP: Bobby Shore
Line Producer: Sharon Yoo
Post Production Company: Common Good
Editor: Red Barbaza
Online Editor: Red Barbaza
Colourist: Wade Odium (Alter Ego)
VFX Supervisor: Alex Avram
Audio House: Vapor RMW
Audio House Producer: Joey Serlin
Casting Agent/ Agency: Steve Mann Casting
Original Music: Kwaiden & Universal
Media Agency: OMD

VP, External Relations and Development: Shannon Kidd
Chief Executive Officer: Richard Pass
Communications Coordinator: Robyn Ives

@DaveGian davegia@hotmail.com David Gianatasio is a longtime contributor to Adweek, where he has been a writer and editor for two decades. Previously serving as Adweek's New England bureau chief and web editor, he remains based in Boston.