What is Mercy Ships?

This post was provided by Nuala Byles, Executive Creative Director for Geometry Global on behalf of Mercy Ships Canada.


On a warm evening in March 2015, I sat in my beachfront hotel reading emails and reviewing the work I needed to complete while on business in Miami; I work as an executive creative director in the world of advertising. I came across an email from a friend that contained a link to a video. This video opened my eyes to a powerful charity that I knew nothing about and, at that moment, I knew that we needed to get involved.

What is Mercy Ships?

Mercy Ships is a global charity that provides free medical care and community support to the world’s most impoverished, yet most Canadians are completely unaware of this charity. Historically, the bulk of their donations have come from a small group of targeted donors. However to sustain and grow support, we needed to generate awareness and engagement beyond these initial supporters.

Misunderstood Millennial.

We took a deep dive into research and despite being labeled the ‘Selfie Generation’, Millennials are truly eager to donate. They will get involved with a cause if they are inspired by a sense of community and the chance to drive real, positive change, and stats show that 57 percent report a desire to directly see the impact of their donation.

We needed to tap into pop culture, spark curiosity and enable change.

We teamed up with Matt Barnes, a celebrated Canadian pop-culture photographer and director. Matt’s audience is as vast and diverse as his work. He has photographed superstars, pop stars and five star brands. By tapping into Matt’s passion, talent and fan-base, we had the opportunity to rally a new audience, and together, Matt and I set out for Madagascar to live on Mercy Ships’ hospital ship, the Africa Mercy. Our goal was to capture content, images and stories of the people whose lives have been changed by Mercy Ships, and share these stories with Canadians.

‘MERCY’, a gallery exhibit and fundraising event, depicts life on a hospital ship.

Every picture tells a story. In Africa, where nearly 50 percent of people have no access to a hospital or doctor, there are hundreds of stories of once-vibrant children, women and men plagued by poverty and preventable diseases, untreated illnesses and neglected injuries. These are stories of a simple toothache or scratch becoming a life-threatening crisis, and stories of the Mercy Ships medical professionals that come to the aid of the affected people. These are the stories that Matt captured, bringing this campaign to life with gripping honesty and beauty.


Art with a Mission.

Twenty-five powerful photographs will be presented as part of the Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival in an innovative fundraising exhibit, “MERCY,” taking place at STRUCK Contemporary Art Gallery in Toronto, Ontario from May 26th to June 5th, 2016. If gallery visitors wish to purchase a photograph, they can do so through SupportMercyShips.ca.

This was a true passion project.

In addition to the gallery exhibit, Matt’s photographs were used in an advertising campaign to drive further awareness. We created familiar hospital scenes with unexpected nautical cues to establish what makes Mercy Ships so unique – a hospital operating onboard a ship. To amplify the campaign, we created a series of print ads and TV spots.

Together with Matt Barnes and our WPP agency partners Geometry Global, Ogilvy & Mather, OgilvyOne, Neo@Ogilvy and Neat Marketing, we donated our time and skills to this project and 100 percent of all proceeds from the charity event will go to Mercy Ships. We hope to bring further awareness and donations to Mercy Ships and turn every port of call into a port of care.

About Mercy Ships

Mercy Ships is a global charity that provides free surgical care and community support to the world’s most impoverished, transforming lives one at a time. Mercy Ships mobilizes hospital ships and a network of dedicated volunteers to reach communities in desperate need of hope and healing.

Through the deployment of the world’s largest private hospital ship, the Africa Mercy, Mercy Ships works with host nations to help fill the voids in local health care systems, while serving the dire and immediate needs of their population. The Africa Mercy is crewed by 450 volunteers from around the world that deliver medical excellence and developmental programs with integrity and compassion.

Mercy Ships provides a variety of curative surgical interventions, along with training opportunities for local medical professionals. Collaborating with qualified local and international partners, Mercy Ships offers holistic support to developing nations striving to make healthcare accessible for all. Since 1978, Mercy Ships has delivered services to more than 2.5 million direct beneficiaries. The countries served are ranked by the United Nations Human Development Index as the poorest in the world.

About Geometry Global

Geometry Global, the world’s largest and most international brand activation agency, drives conversion, action and purchase through award-winning programs that change behavior and inspire people to buy well. With teams in 56 markets, Geometry Global has expertise in shopper, digital, experiential, relationship, promotional and trade marketing. Geometry Global is a WPP company.

To learn more about Mercy Ships Canada, or to make a donation, please visit their Charity Profile Page >>>

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