Canadian Lung Association coughs up a unique campaign

Departing from its conventional ways, the organization has appointed a phlegm spokesperson to educate Canadians about coughs.

The Canadian Lung Association is taking its messaging in a different direction.

There’s been a lot of talk from the organization about single lung diseases, such as asthma and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), but not really enough about a common symptom such as a cough that can lead to diagnosis of a more serious disorder, Janis Hass, director of marketing and communications, Canadian Lung Association, tells MiC.

Working with Rain 43, a Toronto-based agency known for its social change marketing, the organization launched a $250, 000 TV and online campaign this week, with the aim of educating Canadians on coughs that persist for longer than three weeks.

The face of the campaign is a singing phlegm ball which makes an appearance in a TV spot directing viewers to

The ad has been placed on channels such as History, Slice, W Network, CMT and The Weather Network, says Hass, adding that there was also a buy with APTN in order to target Aboriginal, Inuit and Metis people as they have a higher rate of contracting respiratory diseases.

On the microsite, the phlegm spokesperson (this time talking and making jokes) directs people to take a cough test. The questionnaire works to determine whether the cough could be from a number of other ailments such as a cold, acid reflux or even a bad reaction to medication. A nagging cough that lasts longer than eight weeks could be a sign of lung disease, in which case the site advises the user to either speak with one of the organization’s health care professionals or to see their family doctor.

Hass says that this is the first time the Canadian Lung Association has executed a campaign that is this witty and outside of its usual conservative box.

“Rain 43 suggested that we use humour as an approach to this because we don’t want to scare people,” she says. “We don’t want people to immediately think that it’s a lung disease, cough is caused by many different things.”

Along with the TV spots, the agency also placed ads on dating website eHarmony as it is able to serve up ads to smokers (the primary target audience), says Hass.

“When you go onto the dating service, you have to indicate whether you are a smoker or not [as well as your age], so they can drill exactly down to our target audience of 45-to-55 males or females who smoke,” she adds.

Additional ads have been placed on as well as on Facebook, and the campaign, which was funded by the Public Health Agency of Canada, will run for the next four weeks until Feb. 27, says Hass.