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Images Courtesy of Canadian Dental Hygienists Association

Raising public awareness: The superhero competition campaign

By Angie D’Aoust

The Canadian Dental Hygienists Association (CDHA) is a national not-for-profit association with 19,500 members. Dental hygiene is the sixth largest regulated health profession in Canada and the CDHA exists so that its members are able to provide quality preventive and therapeutic oral health care as well as health promotion for the Canadian public.

One of our organizational strategic goals is public recognition: to ensure the Canadian public understands and values the dental hygiene profession. Pursuing activities that increase public awareness of the role played by dental hygienists in preserving and promoting oral and overall health.

CDHA was looking for a way to highlight and recognize the great work accomplished by its members as part of our annual National Dental Hygienists Week™ public awareness campaign, which takes place annually in April. We were also aware that one of our dental industry partners, GSK, embraces the core values of patient/client focus, integrity, respect for people and transparency. In recognition of this synergy, CDHA developed and presented GSK with a partnership proposal integrating GSK’s desire to recognize social responsibility and strong leadership among health care professionals with CDHA’s goal to recognize and celebrate the impact of dental hygienist across Canada whose efforts contribute to the well-being of their clients and communities. From that proposal, Canada’s Dental Hygiene Superhero Competition campaign was born. Our objective was to collect a minimum of 500 stories from clients, colleagues, and employers, which would illustrate the value Canadians place on the services of dental hygienists and could then be utilized in future public relations initiatives and marketing endeavours to instill a sense of pride among dental hygienists for their profession.


There were three target groups for the initiative: dental hygienists, dental hygiene employers and members of the public (the clients of dental hygienists). Although dental hygienists and their employers understand the important role that dental hygienists play in oral and overall health, many fail to recognize the true extent of the impact they have on the public. In addition, in some cases, clients may not fully understand or may not have taken the time to think about the work that their dental hygienist does to ensure their good oral health. This campaign gave them an opportunity to reflect on the professional behind the mask.

The target audience was provided with a venue to submit online nominations celebrating dental hygiene superheroes through personal “dental hygiene experience” stories.

Goal: To raise awareness and showcase the value the public places on the role of dental hygienists in oral and overall health.
1. To generate a minimum of 500 nominations, with at least 50% submitted by dental hygiene clients.
2. To double visitor traffic to dentalhygienecanada.ca from January to April 2018, as compared to the same period in 2017.
3. To elevate GSK brand recognition as reflected by a minimum of 10% of nominations generated from GSK-driven marketing efforts (postcards, rep visits) during the campaign.


A series of meetings were held with GSK to determine timeline, competition criteria, prizing, marketing campaign components, and evaluation criteria. GSK selected its product, Sensodyne, as the brand to be associated with the competition. GSK provided sponsorship to support this project. All elements of the project plan were identified and managed in our project management tool BaseCamp.

CDHA developed competition guidelines and created a web page and online fillable nomination form. A dashboard was developed to manage the submissions. The competition guidelines and nomination form were housed on CDHA’s public-facing website, Dentalhygienecanada.ca, and cross promoted through both CDHA’s and GSK’s digital platforms.

The online nomination form consisted of the nominee’s name and place of work; nominator name and contact information (email/phone); a question on where/how they had heard about the competition, and space for a brief story of why the nominee was a dental hygiene superhero.

Nominees were required to be CDHA members. This criterion was vetted by CDHA prior to the selection process, and nominees who were not CDHA members were given the opportunity to join and become eligible for the competition.

The project was supported by an extensive marketing campaign including advertisements in the association’s magazine, promotions in our eNewsletter, a social media campaign, a media release, photo booth and nomination station at a national dental tradeshow, 14,000 postcards delivered by GSK sales team representatives to dental offices across Canada, two promotional videos (one produced by CDHA and one from the project’s GSK rep who is a dental hygienist and CDHA member), and a Google AdWords and video campaign. In addition, the dental hygiene superhero theme was integrated into our national television and digital advertising campaign for National Dental Hygienists Week™.

Submissions were shortlisted to the top 50 nominations and then narrowed to 21 finalists whose nominations were presented to the adjudication committee for review. The committee was composed of representatives from CDHA staff, board of directors, CDHA’s public awareness network, research and education advisory committees, and two members at large.

The grand prize winner, “Canada’s Dental Hygiene Superhero,” and two runners up were selected, notified and announced via our website, social media, publications and a media release. Official presentations of their trophies were presented at our AGM.


1. Generate a minimum of 500 nomination submissions, with at least 50 per cent from clients.

CDHA received 818 nominations, which far exceeded our goal and expectations. Of this number, 590 (72 per cent) were submitted by clients (the public). An additional 199 nominations came from colleagues, and 29 were submitted by employers. Every province/territory was represented.

2. Double visitor traffic to dentalhygienecanada.ca from January to April 2018, as compared to the same period in 2017.

Total sessions for January 2018: up 211%
Total sessions for February 2018: up 153%
Total sessions for March 2018: up 402%
Total sessions for April 2018: up 408%

This campaign resulted in a 293 per cent increase in visitor traffic to dentalhygienecanada.ca from January to April 2018. The campaign also had a huge audience reach overall with: 1,456 views of the Superhero Competition web pages on CDHA’s site; and 16,491 views on dentalhygienecanada.ca (total 17,947). The videos were viewed 16,488 times on YouTube and 23,027 on Facebook for total of 39,515 views. There was also extensive social media reach: 131 posts reached an audience of 329,154.

3. To elevate GSK brand recognition as reflected by a minimum of 10 per cent of nominations generated from GSK-driven marketing efforts (postcards, rep visits) during the campaign.

Seven percent of nominations were directly attributed to these marketing efforts. However, it was a challenge to measure this objective accurately, since the largest percentage of nominators (35%) attributed their awareness of the competition to their health care provider, who may in fact have been made aware of the competition through the GSK-associated marketing efforts. The true value of this campaign lies in what the nominators had to say about their dental hygienists and the inspiring stories they shared. 

Excerpts of nomination stories were shared on social media throughout the campaign and will continue to be shared regularly on our social media platforms and integrated into our public-facing communications over the coming year to demonstrate the value of the work of dental hygienists. Peer-to-peer endorsements and testimonials are far more powerful and credible than any messaging generated by CDHA as an organization.

The feedback from campaign nominees demonstrates clearly the impact these stories and the campaign have had, helping them to realize how highly valued they are by their clients:

I didn’t even realize in the craziness of that day, that someone was watching me and taking it all in. I do recall the phone conversation when I called to rebook the young girl and her uncle told me what happened to her mother and I had them all come in but I didn’t think it was really anything special. It definitely is an eye opener to see how something small for us, just part of our job, can be so profound for someone.

Another success of the campaign was the strengthened partnership between CDHA and GSK.

GSK’s funding allowed CDHA to launch this important and innovative campaign, and provided an opportunity for GSK representatives to engage more fully with dental hygienists across the country:

“This has been such a phenomenal experience for GSK and we wanted to take the time to say thank you to all of you who worked very hard on this initiative. We are so pleased with the amount of engagement we received this year and I personally cannot wait to see what future years will bring but furthermore, how are we going to top this? Simply amazing!!!! Great job everyone!!!” GSK has since committed to repeating the program in 2019 with a potential increase in funding.

The nomination stories are a testament to the success and importance of this initiative. This campaign was tremendously effective as an outreach tool, allowing CDHA to collect stories from the public to assist us in developing stronger messaging in future marketing and public awareness campaigns, to reinforce the importance of the roles played by dental hygienists in communities across Canada, and to recognize those achievements, accomplishments and contributions, and instill a greater sense of pride in our members. 

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