Innovation Challenge: 'Ventilator SOS'

W2O Group's crowdsourced campaign for the COVID-19 Ventilator Rapid Response Team addressed the shortage of ventilators. (W2O Group)

Category: Innovation Challenge
Winning campaign: “Ventilator SOS”
Client: COVID-19 Ventilator Rapid Response Team
Agency: W2O Group

As the coronavirus pandemic rapidly spread in March, the desperate need for ventilators became clear as hospitals reported shortages and the number of cases soared. Behind the scenes, a team of engineers, doctors and industry experts was collaborating with faculty and students at University of California, Berkeley and University of California, San Francisco on a solution to provide the much-needed ventilators.

Dubbed the COVID-19 Ventilator Rapid Response Team, the group devised an ingenious way to address the shortage: repurpose CPAP machines used to treat sleep apnea. To implement the plan, it needed a huge, immediate supply of CPAP machines, so it turned to W2O Group to get the word out.

In a matter of days, W2O created an award-winning campaign called “Ventilator SOS," aiming to generate donations of unused CPAP machines and distribute them in the most efficient way to hospitals and care facilities.

RELATED: Steroids can save the lives of very ill COVID-19 patients, new studies confirm

“We had two target audiences,” W2O Chief Marketing Officer Aaron Strout said. “Our first target audience was people between 50 to 80 years old who have sleep apnea and could donate CPAP machines. The other target was hospitals and doctors who needed the machines.”

The first stage of the campaign was a media strategy targeting local and national news outlets, with the message that individuals and organizations could help save lives by donating unused CPAP machines.

“People were tired of hearing the same old news about COVID, and they wanted to hear about folks who were actually doing something to solve the problem,” Strout said.

The media campaign generated coverage in top-tier print, digital and broadcast outlets, which led to involvement by two large tech companies. Salesforce donated software to help manage the donations and hospital requests, and Apogee delivered the repurposed machines to hospitals.

RELATED: Does Roche's Actemra work in COVID-19? New studies once again paint mixed picture

The second phase of the campaign included a website and digital ads that drew on themes from American war posters to encourage people to donate equipment for life-saving support.

One creative execution showed an image of lungs wrapped in yellow caution tape with the headline “Breathe in Hope, Breathe out Fear, Breathe as One.”

Within one week of launch, more than 2,000 CPAP machines were donated, and by June, an additional 50,000 donations were expected. The entire campaign was completed with donated time and talent from every organization involved.

“People want to know, ‘What’s the ROI?’ How do you get a return on investment for saving people’s lives? It was all pro-bono, so it was very low-cost, high benefit,” Strout said.

Innovation Challenge: 'Ventilator SOS'