SickKids Foundation
"SickKids Airbnb"

Client: SickKids Foundation
Product: N/A
Title: SickKids Airbnb
Media: Experiential
Country: Canada
Date Of Campaign: Sept 18, 2019

Background: The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) is a world-renowned pediatric hospital with cutting-edge technologies and leading health-care professionals. Recent brand health surveys confirm public perception of the hospital as extremely positive; those familiar with SickKids considered it to be a state-of-the-art facility. But in reality, the SickKids physical infrastructure is extremely outdated. Some parts of the hospital building are 70-years-old, resulting in rooms ill-equipped for modern technology, a shocking lack of privacy for patients and their families, and overcrowded working conditions for hospital staff. Hence the challenge: The public’s favourable perception of SickKids was diverting attention away from the urgent need for a new facility. With nearly $400 million in fundraising still required to build a new hospital, we had to create a spectacle that would grab attention, drive awareness, and reframe the current perception of SickKids as a state-of-the-art facility. We knew that the only way to create a clear understanding of the building’s limitations was to have the public personally experience it. We had to show people what was going on inside the hospital, and take them, quite literally, behind the curtain.

Idea: To demonstrate the necessity for a new building, SickKids partnered with Airbnb to show Canadians what life’s like in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU). While this isn’t the first Airbnb partnership, ours was first to use their platform to create a poignant, eye-opening message – a brave departure for Airbnb’s brand tone. First, we transformed a hospital boardroom into an exact replica of the PICU. Every detail was accounted for, from hand-written charts to worn tape on the floor, making it indistinguishable even to doctors. We then conducted 30 hours of stakeholder interviews for a true sense of the outdated infrastructure’s impact. From that we created an immersive, three-hour experience including a 100-track soundscape with live reenactments featuring hospital staff. Our listing, crafted to feel like another rental on Airbnb but with a clever rug-pull highlighting the space’s limitations, was opened to the public on Airbnb.ca for $16,744, the nightly cost of operating a PICU room. To catapult the conversation, notable Torontonians including NBA Champion Fred VanVleet checked in for the night. Above the constant beeping and whimpers, they overheard conversations of despair and hope, and witnessed a code blue, which became the basis for online videos and influencer content. We then invited media to experience the space themselves.

Results: Since our first guest, SickKids Foundation saw a 28% increase in new site users, a 25% traffic increase, and, most importantly, a 27% increase in donation revenue. Our Airbnb listing became the most viewed in Canada with 26,000+ visits.To date, the campaign has generated over 139 million earned media impressions, 120 million of which were earned within the first 7 days alone from over 245 pieces. The coverage spanned North America, with the story captured by outlets such as Newsweek, Yahoo, MSN, CBC, CTV, Global News, CP24, and HuffPost. Within 24 hours of the media day, the SickKids Airbnb earned over 2.5 hours of broadcast air time, driving mass awareness and changing perceptions. The activation was so impactful, that what was meant to be a temporary installation was made permanent, now used by the hospital as a more realistic training environment. Finally, the experience was written into a research paper, “Behind the Curtain: Using Simulation to Create Public Awareness of Healthcare Challenges” that has been presented at international medical conferences and is currently being considered for publication in a prominent medical journal.

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