Cannes Lions

SickKids Airbnb


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The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) is widely known as a world-leading pediatric hospital. The reality is that the infrastructure, some of which was built in 1949, now presents a daily obstacle for doctors, staff, and families. Yet, based on recent brand health surveys, the majority of those familiar with SickKids do not understand the urgent need for a new hospital. The team was tasked to create a PR spectacle that grabbed attention, drove awareness generating over 50 million impressions, and combatted the current perception of SickKids as a state-of-the-art facility.


To get target donors to recognize the desperate need for a new SickKids hospital, it would require people to experience the reality firsthand. So, we transformed a hospital boardroom into an exact replica of the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) and recreated the experience patients, family members, and staff live every day. No detail was missed, including hand-written charts, worn tape on the floor, even the constant beeping of machines.

Then we partnered with Airbnb and invited the public to stay the night. The experience was made available to consumers through a real listing that highlighted the shocking limitations of the space. The experience was valued at $16,744, the cost to operate a four-patient room in the PICU for one night. Those who saw behind the curtain themselves immediately understood the need for a new hospital.


At the time, the conversation of perception vs reality was taking off across social media - something we could leverage for SickKids; the reputation of the world-renown hospital was limiting their ability to raise money despite the urgent need of a new infrastructure. We needed to pull back the curtain on the reality of the urgent need for a new building to help change perception for all those familiar with SickKids, concentrating on Toronto and across Canada. Our goal was to deliver the message that despite the quality of care that the staff at SickKids can provide, the building holding them back in order to change the perception and drive donations. To ensure this message reached far and wide the team selected a diverse range of talent to attend the experience, attracting everyone from lifestyle and entertainment to news media, all of which had some connection to the hospital.


First, we transformed a spare boardroom in the hospital into an exact replica of the PICU down to the smallest detail. To ensure accuracy, we conducted over 30 hours of interviews with doctors and past patient families to get a true sense of the impact of the outdated infrastructure. We then created a 3-hour experience including a 100-track soundscape and live reenactments that featured SickKids doctors, nurses, and voice recordings from real families for a truly authentic, immersive experience.

Our listing was posted live and available to the public on Airbnb for $16,744 a night. To catapult the conversation, we invited notable Torontonians to stay the night. The reactions from the guests, including Fred Van Vleet from the NBA Champion Toronto Raptors, became the basis for our online videos that were also leveraged on their channels to widen the impact.


SickKids Airbnb has generated over 139 million earned media impressions, 120 million of which were earned within the first 7 days from over 245 pieces. The Airbnb listing garnered over 26,000 visits, making it one of the most viewed in Canada. In one day, SickKids Airbnb earned over 2.5 hours of broadcast air time, driving mass awareness and changing perceptions.

Since launch, SickKids Foundation has seen a 28% increase in new users to its site, a 25% increase in traffic/page views, and, most importantly, a 27% increase in donation revenue.

The activation was so successful, that what was meant to be a temporary installation was made permanent, now used by the hospital as a more realistic training environment. Finally, the experience was written into a research paper that has been presented at international medical conferences and is currently being considered for publication in a prominent medical journal.

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