Shocking first-aid awareness campaign going national

So successful was the Red Cross's first try at scaring the bejeebers out of Torontonians that it's duplicating the consciousness-raising exercise across Canada.

To mark World First Aid Day on Sept. 8, the Canadian Red Cross plans to repeat and expand the deliberately shocking ‘Know What to Do. Learn First Aid’ campaign it tried out on Torontonians this time last year.

Created by Toronto’s Downtown Partners to aggressively prod Canadians into learning first aid and CPR, the campaign will place lifelike decals of collapsed men and women at the bottom of stairwells in select Cineplex Odeon theatres across Canada. At first glance, the startling impression is that someone is lying unconscious on the ground and needs help.

Closer up, as bystanders realize the images are just pictures, they will see a call to action reading: ‘Know what to do. Learn First Aid.’ To reinforce the message, Red Cross reps will be on site to hand out first aid kit samples and information about learning how to save lives.

‘Based on the overwhelming success and global attention we received from last year’s campaign, it just made sense to run it nationally this year,’ says Downtown Partners CD Dan Pawych. ‘The power of this campaign lies in the visceral reaction it generates within people who see it and how it forces us to reflect on our desire, and perhaps our inability, to react correctly in situations like these when they happen.’

He adds that last year’s Toronto-only initiative was seen by more than 7,600 pairs of eyeballs. (It even ended up as a teaching aid in a new media art program at the University of Paris, and will be featured in an upcoming ‘Emotional design – Products stirring emotions’ exhibition at a museum in Germany.) This year’s estimate of expected impressions across the country is 48,000, partly thanks to a week’s showing of pre-movie animated slides at Cineplex Odeon cinemas.