The Toronto-based charity, which provides food, shelter and other services for homeless people, set up black Christmas trees in high-traffic areas in the city on Dec. 6. Ornaments contain messages such as “Let’s hope it’s only a tree that dies on the street” and “No one plans on being homeless. Not even a tree.”
Adjacent sidewalk stenciling features the message “No one should spend Christmas here,” and asks people to donate at GoodShepherd.ca and spread the message on social media with the hashtag #HomelessChristmas.
“We have to find innovative ways of getting our message out, and sometimes it’s raw and shocking, but being homeless is also raw and shocking,” said Brother David Lynch, executive director of Good Shepherd Ministries.
The campaign was developed by Blackjet, which first started working with Good Shepherd on a rebrand in late 2012. For Thanksgiving last year, the ad agency developed the #HomelessTurkey campaign, in which 11,000 tweets resulted in 110 turkeys being donated to Good Shepherd’s Thanksgiving dinner.
“We set out to raise awareness [about Good Shepherd] among younger, more urban audiences,” said Rob Galletta, managing partner at Blackjet. “The Homeless Turkey campaign got tons of awareness for them and tons of social traction. For Christmastime this year, we wanted to launch an ambient campaign that raised awareness at the point of contact, so we literally hit the streets.”
Galletta added that people are increasingly desensitized to the problem of homelessness and are “almost pre-programmed to ignore homeless people.”
“So, with the jarring Christmas trees, ornaments and astounding facts about homelessness, we thought this would be a good opportunity to hit consumers and give them something to share,” he continued. “We wanted to make them stop and think, and if we could do that, then mission accomplished.”
The trees will be up until Dec. 13. Interestingly, people have started leaving care packages at the base of the trees, with items like toothbrushes and gloves. Blackjet is distributing the packages to people in need in the area.