How two Young Lions used digital media to get millennials talking politics

Jessica Burnie and Elizabeth McPhedran harnessed chatbot technology to take a campaign from awareness to action.


Media Experts’ Elizabeth McPhedran and Jessica Burnie are set to head off to their first Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity.

As gold winners at this year’s Canadian Young Lions, McPhedran and Burnie will compete among the global greats in France, tackling a media brief with only 24 hours to complete their original project.

They’ve already proven their abilities on a national level by conceiving the digitally infused, millennial-focused campaign “We GAF” (“we give a fuck”) for the non-profit brand Samara Canada as part of the Canadian Young Lions brief.

“Canadians do not trust Members of Parliament or political parties and believe they largely fail to perform their core jobs,” Samara’s brief stated. “Overall, politics is seen as irrelevant and, as a result, Canadians are withdrawing from the democratic system.”

With Burnie working out of Toronto and McPhedran in Montreal, the two conducted about 90% of their planning on Skype, transcribing almost everything as they went along.

“Oddly, this format ended up being really helpful,” said McPhedran. “It was like we had a transcript of all our thoughts that we could go back and read over when we wanted to return to a previous idea or specific phrasing we liked.”image001 (2)

The two first tossed around the idea of comparing Canada’s democracy to that of other countries around the world. But McPhedran said research showed that interest in politics was particularly high among millennials, a group that simply needed the tools to become more actively engaged.

Burnie said this worked with their goals, because in order to stand out, they wanted to create something that wasn’t just about awareness, but about action.

The campaign targeted millennials who were considered semi-engaged (people who read articles and are aware of events like rallies, but fear that actions don’t make an impact) and those considered unengaged (those who don’t see their connection to politics).

Their proposal included digital out-of-home, experiential marketing, banner ads and a chatbot. The plan was to engage young people at times when they felt most frustrated, such as ads about student loan debt while people were online banking or digital out of home ads discussing transit plans at busy streetcar stops. The ads then directed the viewers to a chatbot, which delivered actionable information like MPs’ contact information, key voting dates and upcoming events.

“The idea was to develop a media campaign to let millennials engage with democracy on their own terms,” said McPhedran.

While both told MiC they’re feeling the anxiety of representing Media Experts, its parent company IPG Mediabrands, and Canada itself in Cannes, McPhedran said she’s also keeping her eye open for inspiration to help her grow.

“Everyone agrees that Cannes is the global Mecca for media and advertising, so I’m really looking forward to see the innovation that people are bringing forward and bringing it back home to Canada,” she said.


MiC’s sister site, will be live from Cannes next week with the best coverage of the festival in Canada. Check back from June 17 – 24 for all the winners and insights from the International Festival of Creativity. For easier updates, subscribe to the strategy Daily morning newsletter.