The ProBono Group, a collection of broadcast production and ad strategy pros, is continuing to give back to worthy causes, upholding a legacy that started more than two decades ago.
Led by award-winning creative directors Mike Occomore (best-known for the 37 years he spent at CHUM Toronto) and fellow CHUM alum and veteran writer Larry MacInnis, along with producer Mike Tennant, the group also originally included adman and radio host Terry O’Reilly. Tennant would go on to co-create and showrun O’Reilly On Advertising and Age of Persuasion for CBC Radio.
“It all started with those lunches the four of us used to do,” recalled Occomore.
“We had long been admirers of each other’s work,” added MacInnis. “It was Mike Tennant who brought forward a campaign he wanted to do for Amnesty International. We started out in the pure sense as an opportunity to work together, but have also always been passionate about causes.”
The group started out producing ads for not-for-profit organizations like the Canadian Red Cross and the Stephen Lewis Foundation. Over the years, they’ve used their connections to draw in talent to their projects like Rush frontman Geddy Lee, Ed Robertson from the Barenaked Ladies, and comedian Ron James.
“We know radio can have a bigger emotional impact than other mediums,” MacInnis told Broadcast Dialogue. “We really believe in radio’s personal impact. We’ve made a lot of contacts we know and admire and anytime we ask, everyone comes through. Radio doesn’t get enough credit for that and I don’t think radio asks for enough credit either. We really believe that and we want to use radio for these good causes because it really is effective.”
Initially, O’Reilly would arrange for recording at Pirate Radio & Television, the creative audio production company he co-founded. While he is now focused on other projects, including the Apostrophe Podcast Company, the group still taps his guidance, particularly when it comes to casting advice. Of late, they’ve been recording at Toronto’s Wanted! Sound + Picture, with everyone involved donating their studio time.
ProBono Group launched a series of national PSAs last year, distributed free to radio stations, to address the food bank crisis. This year, the group is tackling homelessness, in support of the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness (CAEH), producing a new radio campaign to address the many misconceptions and incorrect assumptions surrounding homelessness in Canada.
The group is launching the first in a series of 30-second radio PSAs for CAEH this week, entitled “41 Years Old.” It will be followed by a second 30-second PSA in about a month to keep the campaign fresh.
Download the new PSA here:
ProBono Group is also working on a forthcoming campaign for Feed Ontario, which supports 1,200 food banks across the province.
Reach out to the ProBono Group at email@example.com.
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