The Deconstructed Brief
right to play.jpg

We Rise


Brand: Right to Play
Agency: BBDO Toronto


125 million children suffer at the hands of child labor, making the products you keep in your cabinets: 148 different consumer goods ranging from cocoa to coffee to cotton and tobacco.

Right to Play needed to transform this invisible group into a visible one, and forcing recognition of this abused and ignored population: children.

This organization provides educational programs to children in fifteen different countries, such as Afghanistan and South Sudan, in order to prevent issues ranging from child labor and female genital mutilation to disease to undernourishment and the recruitment of child soldiers. They reach an average of 1.9 million children each week.

This campaign was their first designed to target the general populace; therefore, they needed to make a good impression while presenting an accurate portrayal of the gravity of the situation. Consumers donate most often to organizations with a cause that they can understand and identify with, and research demonstrates that donors are more likely to give when they believe that their donation will make a difference. This hinges on a clear and concise message connected to a definitive target — one they may not identify with given viewers’ uncomfortable role in the supply chain.

Right to Play needed to establish their identity and ensure that consumers who had never heard of them understood them and their cause. This connection needed to demonstrate the raw, unfiltered reality facing these children without isolating potential donors: the American Psychological Association details our immense proclivity to ignore ideas we disagree with or find uncomfortable, and Columbia University research reveals our significant extents to preserve identity consistency and create social echo chambers to avoid uncomfortable ideas and scenarios.

How do you shine a spotlight on the disaster and encourage donors to confront the uncomfortable?

Key insight

Millions of children face systematic abuse and neglect at the hands of adults who choose to do nothing by indulging in willful ignorance and benefiting from a sugar coated version of childhood oppression.

Afterall, they’re not my kids.

One thought

Fight back.

The idea:

Nonprofit group Right to Play released a series of emotional, 90-second anthem spots featuring children forced into harsh and heartbreaking situations. The campaign includes three films anchored by a 90-second anthem spot “We Rise” addressing general issues (trafficking, abuse and labor), “Games Over Guns” tackling child soldiers and “Resignation Letter” speaking to child labor. Slam poetry read by children detailing their ability to overcome overlaying gripping imagery of children dealing with the aforementioned issues.  

They released the advertisements in concurrence  with Canada’s celebration of International Children’s Day (November 20th). The work drives viewers to the group’s website using a call to action coupled with the line “Every child should have the right to rise.”

Right to Play has a strong base of corporate, high-worth and government donors, and this campaign is the organization’s first awareness and donor campaign oriented to mass-market and monthly donors. According to the organization, high-worth and government donors can more easily visit the regions Right to Play’s programs impact, and they wanted “to find a way to bring that experience, that emotion, and ultimately, the impact of our programs that the other tier of our donors experience in person, to life for this mass market.”

Their execution delivers on three essential issues for nonprofit organizations aiming to receive individual donations: an easily understandable mission, an identifiable cause and a concrete explanation of the benefits of a consumer donation. Right to Play introduces their organization with an anthemic spot, followed by a series of shorts highlighting the different forms of childhood exploitation they aim to combat. These visuals force viewers to confront the gross realities these children face in juxtaposition with one’s own, idealized versions of childhood.

Media was secured entirely through supporters of Right to Play, including Rogers, the Toronto International Film Festival, Facebook, athlete ambassadors (including NBA  player Bismack Biyombo) and telecommunications provider Sky TV in the U.K. The global campaign is being deployed across North America, Germany, Switzerland and the U.K., and they plan to release future spots under the same umbrella theme.

What they said:

“While this organization is not on the front lines providing food and medicine to keep people alive,” said BBDOs Chief Creative Officer, Denise Rossetto, “their sole purpose is to empower these children, ultimately giving them a reason to live.”

Lessons to be learned:

  • Create a cohesive message. — Todd Mackie, CCO at BBDO, stated that the biggest creative challenge was distilling all of the efforts of Right to Play into a series of cohesive and semi-comprehensive spots. Right to Play addresses a range of issues in their efforts to protect, educate and empower children; for example, In addition to their efforts to combat the issues  visually represented in the campaign, they also address problems such as free expression in the arts. The vocal, poetic overlay highlights the organization’s additional layers without complicating or obfuscating the campaign’s message.

  • Remember your audience. — The issues featured in the advertisements represent high-profile topics ripe for discussion among potential donors. Challenges such as child soldiers and labor hit a critical touchpoint for their target - parents - as well as addressing issues that have received significant examination and discussion in recent years. The focus on children also speaks to adjacent issues - such as the refugee crisis - that remains a highlight of political debate.

  • Keep your focus clear. — Right to Play keeps the focus on the children: according to Rebecca Flaman, VP and group account director at BBDO Toronto, the objective was to capture the key moment those children become empowered and their success afterwards. The cinematic focus on the kids’ expressive faces fulfills their role as center-of-attention amid the external chaos. The decision to feature the beneficiaries of their efforts reflects the distinctive choice to remain distanced from the campaign - a break from the traditional instinct to insert themselves into the creative.

    According to Frey: “It’s a subtle but important move in terms of how we position the campaign, especially compared to everything else in the space.” This positioning supports research stating that people are much more responsive to charitable pleas that feature a single, identifiable beneficiary, than they are to statistical information about the scale of the problem being faced.

  • Be honest. — Right to Play chose not to sugarcoat the realities featuring these children: a pivotal moment in “Games Over Guns” has viewers holding their breath until the video’s resolution. This emphasizes the absence of laws available to protect these children, and the failure of the adults in their lives to fulfill their role as guardians and protectors. The filmmakers worked with real kids and amateur talent while filming on location in South Africa in order to further the feel of a true and honest portrayal.

  • Heroes - not just victims. — The portrayal of the children in the video positions them as heroes as opposed to victims. This shift aligns with the changing cultural perceptions and conversation around individuals suffering at abuse or traumatic situations. It also emphasizes the role that Right to Play fulfills in the lives of the children they benefit and their desire to feature key, impactful moments in their lives.