Curing homesickness: Behind CHE Proximity’s campaign with the Sydney Children’s Hospital Foundation

Two years of pro bono work. Millions of dollars of donated media spots. Seven corporate partners. Twenty publishers on board. Fifty cents from every jar of Coles “sause” sold. A target of $1m. Eight hospitals. 500,000 sick kids. One idea: Curing homesickness.

This is CHE Proximity’s latest campaign, launching today for and with the Sydney Children’s Hospital Foundation. The Foundation asked CHEP to drive up donations by answering a big question: What’s the one thing that connects all children in hospital, regardless of their sickness, age or location? So they asked those kids. And their parents. Their doctors, the cleaners, the people who brought their food in. And they realised that every physical illness is underpinned by an emotional condition: homesickness – for ballet classes, their dog, their siblings. Or even for ‘Mum’s sause’.

“They had a really good challenge … a crystal clear problem that people were donating to numerous diseases and they were almost cannibalising donations to the hospital, which covers all diseases,” CHE Proximity’s chief creative officer, Ant White, tells Mumbrella.

“So they needed a unifying mission. Homesickness was it. We’ve said that if we can beat homesickness, we’ve beaten any sickness because the kids are at home.”

The campaign film centres around a girl in hospital called Ali, whose brother finds a note in which she confesses to missing her mum’s pasta sauce, spelt “sause”. He takes a photo of the note, posts it to Instagram, and watches as TV networks and news outlets and celebrities all talk about a little girl in hospital who feels homesick for this simple, familiar, comfort.

But where did the idea come from? White explains it all started with the script.

“It’s just a punch in the guts kind of emotional idea and we knew that it could be beautiful,” he says.

Then he thought: “What if everyone in it was real? What if every article you saw published that happened in the world about this thing becoming part of culture became part of culture?”

And what if the sauce itself was real? Enter Coles. The supermarket created its own brand of “Mum’s sause”, on shelves from today.

The real-life “Mum’s sause”

Every quarter, the Foundation will be given Coles’ sales reports, so it can track the sales coming from each postcode. The money donated from each purchase will go to the customer’s closest hospital.

Lisa Ronson, Coles’ chief marketing officer, says the cause was one the supermarket wanted to get behind. As for her response to the film itself?

“Tears. It’s such a representative story of so many children who are suffering from homesickness every single day of the year and it really moved me as a human being and also as a mother,” she says.

And it got bigger from there. Assembly Label is selling t-shirts emblazoned with the word “homesick”. Disney’s Marvel Studios is donating 100% of ticket sales of back-to-back showings of The Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame on Saturday 3 August, across select Event and Village Cinemas. (As White notes, when you boil it down, superhero movies are all about the protagonist trying to get home.) Pasta Pantry’s Sydney stores are donating funds from sales of their dishes.

An out-of-home example of the campaign

The film, directed by The Glue Society’s Pete Baker, will air on TV, and have an out-of-home component (all donated media spots). But in order to get people into Coles stores and cinemas and Pasta Pantry, CHEP knows the campaign’s momentum needs to start on social media. The news stories featured in the film will be published in real life today. The radio and TV presenters will really talk about it on their shows. The celebrities – Nicole Kidman, Rose Byrne, Hamish Blake – will share the message with their millions of followers.

This is where the campaign’s success needs to begin. Because CHE Proximity’s aim is to turn every campaign into a story. And that story must be plugged into culture, and spark a bigger, more meaningful conversation than simply: ‘Is this a good ad?’

Success, for White, means “everyone in Australia is seeing it and talking about it”.

“The ad mimics what we want to happen. So, it’s pretty ambitious. But we want everyone to be sharing and talking about it and buying ‘Mum’s sause’. And not for us, because if they do that, it’s going to work for the hospital,” he says.

It’s not a conversation that will only happen on the internet though. White was clear that an essential, uncompromising part of the finished campaign is its tangibility. Its true impact comes from being able to touch and taste a sauce, wear a t-shirt, and watch a film, all in the name of a good cause.

The Foundation’s CEO, Nicola Stokes, says CHEP did a “phenomenal” job.

“We know that kids get homesick when they are in hospital, but homesickness isn’t always recognised as a serious complication or illness, and this is the first time it has been the focus of a fundraising campaign to address it,” she explains.

“When I shared our idea with colleagues at other hospital foundations across Australia, they wanted to be involved and they immediately offered to collaborate with us to deliver national impact for every child and every community.”



Sydney Children’s Hospital:

Nicola Stokes – CEO
Mark Stewart – General Manager of Fundraising Tanya Sarina – Head of Health Promotion
Susan Wynne – Director of Development
Lisa Woolfjones – head of partnerships


David Halter – Chief Strategy Officer Mariana Rice – Client Partner
Albert Olsen – Account Executive

Ant White – Chief Creative Officer
Glen Dickson – Executive Creative Director Sam Dickson – Creative Director
Cameron Bell – Creative Director

Holly Alexander – Director, Strategic Production

Darren Cole – Head of Design Vanessa Saporito – Senior Designer Callum McGregor – Designer

Georgia Wright – Director – PR
Judy Chung – Senior Account Director – PR Courtney Kovacevic – Senior Account Manager – PR

Elizabeth Lonsdale – Investment Manager

Anna Horan – Head of Editorial & Social Sophie Doyle – Social Lead
Annisah Ibrahim – Senior Social Creative Henry Clarke – Social Creative

Shayne Simpson – Head of Print Production Avery Clark – Production Manager
Katrina Ansford – Digital Producer


Production Company – Revolver/Will O’Rourke
Director – The Glue Society/Pete Baker
Managing Director / Executive Producer – Michael Ritchie Executive Producer – Pip Smart
Executive Producer/Producer – Jasmin Helliar
Producer – Serena Paull & Ian Iveson
Director of Photography – Geoffrey Simpson
2nd Unit DOP – Jordan Maddocks
Production Designer – Nicki Gardner
Casting – Citizen Jane Casting
Editor – The Glue Society
Grade & Online – Heckler
Design & Animation – Heckler
Music – Anton at Trailer Media
Sound – Song Zu


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