Canada Safe School Network takes the bull(y) by its horns

The non-profit organization is running "Bully Ads" by retargeting digital influencers with unkind messages.

“Nobody likes you.” “You suck.” And “You have no friends.” These are the sorts of messages spread across banner ads that a selected group of influencers, media personalities and bloggers have seen pop up, over and over again, on their screens.

The collective stack of insulting notes are part of a campaign called  “Bully Ads” from the Canada Safe School Network, which has decided to tackle the curse of bullying by owning the concept. Instead of talking about the perils of bullying, the organization has taken on the guise of a bully itself by launching a retargeting campaign aimed at a select group of influencers.

The idea behind the campaign was to put online influencers in the shoes of young people being cyber-bullied, explained Rene Roulou, creative director at BIMM, who worked with Touche! and AOL Canada in executing the campaign. “We wanted people to understand what it feels like to be cyber-bullied. When I was a young kid, even if you were bullied, your home was your safe space. Today there is no escape because bullying follows children into their homes.”

This is how the execution began: The campaign team sent personalized invites to 342 media and digital personalities on April 28 for a media event that the organization is hosting tomorrow. But recipients didn’t know that once they clicked on the invite, the campaign was picking up cookies from individual devices and using that information to send them the “Bully Ads.” That campaign started on May 4 and ends today, with the aim of gaining earned media to highlight the campaign’s cause.  

Because the media budget for the campaign was limited, the strategy was to develop a targeted hit list. Roulou said precise targeting allowed the team to bid high (as much as $2 per spot) for display on the sites they wanted. To date the campaign has achieved a 12.22% CTR on its banner ads.

In addition to retargeting, the Canada Safe School Network also has a larger campaign in market.

The organization has teamed up with Yo Sox to create unique socks that can be purchased in support of the organization’s anti-bullying mission.

The “#StandTogether” socks will be available for sale online, with Yo Sox giving a percentage of sales back to the Canadian Safe School Network as a fundraising initiative. Consumers are encouraged to pose with their socks and share them on social media.

A 30-second version of a PSA featuring some of the influencers sharing their stories is being carried on Sportsnet, which donated media (estimated at $50,000) including digital banners and a full page ad in its magazine (the Canadian Safe School Network has a long-standing relationship with Sportsnet president Scott Moore and the NHL). A full page ad is also running in Today’s Parent magazine, and in Sportsnet magazine.

The larger campaign launches tomorrow.

With files from Harmeet Singh, Strategy