2016 Winners


BRONZE: Best Experiential Engagement


The Canadian Centre for Gender & Sexual Diversity - The Gay Sweater

The Canadian Centre for Gender and Sexual Diversity (CCGSD) works to end bullying and discrimination against gay people, particularly gay youth. The goal of this campaign was to get straight people to stop using the word 'gay' as a term of derision to describe things.

If you're a straight person, you have probably called something 'gay' at some point to describe it in a negative way (ie. 'That movie was so gay' or 'Those shoes are so gay'). To get the public to think about how psychologically damaging that language can be to gay people (and gay youth in particular), the CCGSD needed to create awareness and get people to use 'gay' the right way.

The big idea? Create the world's first and only object that's OK to call gay… because it's made of actual gay DNA.

To do this, CCGSD created "The Gay Sweater" – made from the hair of gay people – and used it as a central symbol to generate broad awareness. The campaign launched on March 24, 2015. The campaign had a budget of zero dollars so PR, experiential, influencer advocacy and social media were key to generating the earned media that would bring the message to a global audience.

The sweater became the central piece of symbolism during the campaign. The process of making it was documented in an online film. PR teams in Canada, the United States and the UK were enlisted to push the message out.

"The Gay Sweater" launched during Toronto Fashion Week, when we knew media interest would be strong. #thegaysweater trended on Twitter immediately, and the film about the project began to attract serious attention in the news media. Education kits were made available at the campaign website that teachers could download. Throughout the project, we actively engaged influencers both inside and outside of the gay community to spread the word about the project. All of these touchpoints led back to the central message of "The Gay Sweater," which was to make straight people think about their behaviour and change the way they use the word "gay." As a piece of ambient media, it was seen on the news, the streets, and in schools – sparking valuable conversations wherever it went.

The campaign generated massive awareness, sparking an important global conversation about the misuse of the word gay. CCGSD founder Jeremy Dias was invited for several high-profile media interviews, including with the CBC and CTV national news, and several of Canada's leading radio stations and newspapers. As Dias put it, "I got more interviews in three days than in the past 10 years."

The campaign generated $1.1 million in earned media (over five times the goal) and 165 million impressions in the first week (over six times the goal), including more than 46 million mainstream media impressions. These mainstream media mentions achieved a quality score of 94% (versus goal of 75%). On Facebook, the campaign generated over 6 million impressions. And #thegaysweater generated nearly 16 million impressions on Twitter and trended in Canada.


Client: The Canadian Centre for Gender and Sexual Diversity

Agency: Saatchi & Saatchi Canada

Executive creative director: Brian Sheppard

Group creative directors: Matt Antonello, Joel Arbez

Art directors: Joel Arbez, Rachel Kennedy

Copywriters: Matt Antonello, Shauna Roe

Head of production: Michelle Orlando

Producer: Rebecca Adams

Director: Reynard Li

Editors: Chris Murphy (Relish), Ryan Denmark, Dylan O'Donnell

Photographers: Philip Rostron (Instil), Vicky Lam (Westside), Rob Butterwick

Developers: TPM Communications

Music: Dustin Anstey (RMW)

Colour: Smith

PR: Republic (Canada), Golin (USA and UK)

Have questions? Need help?
Contact Zoe Sherwood at 416-408-2300 x237 or zsherwood@brunico.com.