Creating emotional connections with consumers through digital tools can sometimes be a difficult task—but it’s certainly possible and often effective.
Havas Canada set out to do just that. This agency created a strategic design for a cause that’s close to the local community’s heart: providing everyone with a decent place to live. That’s the vision of Habitat for Humanity. And by simply transforming a website, Habitat for Humanity can change the lives of struggling families.
The idea was to boost donations and volunteerism by making the experience on the website easier with better navigation. Alex Chepovetsky, President of Havas Worldwide Digital Canada, talks about Toronto’s housing shortage crisis and how Havas Canada is making a difference.
Tell us about your professional journey.
I started my career in tech, strategy, marketing, and user experience in the ’80s with a little more than a cartload of computer parts and a great head of hair. More than 30 years later, my multidisciplinary approach to digital has helped me lead CGI digital and Sapient Interactive in Canada and parts of the US. Most recently, Havas Digital. Along the way, I’ve helped build business for brands like Rogers, TELUS, Shaw, Bell, Scotiabank, TD Bank, Royal Bank of Canada, Bank of Montréal, Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, Manulife, London Life, Hudson’s Bry Company, Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation, Union Gas, and Under Armour. While I’m proud of the work, I’m even prouder of the many genuine relationships I’ve built along the way. And my hair. I’m proud to still have hair.
You say that every year Havas Canada chooses a cause that’s “close to our hearts.” Why did you choose Habitat for Humanity?
We hear about the state of the Toronto housing market every day, and most of us can relate to struggling families. We wanted to give back to our community and the people in it.
What is the goal in partnering with this organization?
With Toronto on the verge of a housing shortage crisis, we wanted to overhaul Habitat for Humanity’s website to raise awareness and make it easier for people to donate their time, money, or belongings. We want to help build up our community in meaningful ways.
Describe the work and mission of this project.
We wanted to make sure that Habitat for Humanity was able to better communicate through modernizing and redesigning their digital presence. This included envisioning work that translated into strategy, design, and the build of the website—making it more accessible, more user-friendly, and easier for people to get involved with Habitat for Humanity. We treated it like any other for-profit project with a full team. We delivered a site that we are really proud of.
How will this partnership help the community?
A strong digital presence is key to raising awareness about anything, including charities and specific needs in our community. The new site will increase our community’s engagement with Habitat for Humanity, which not only directly helps the families being put into new homes, but will raise awareness of the changes needed in the Toronto housing market to also increase donations so that Habitat for Humanity can build more homes for more families.
You said that you treat the organization “like a client, not a charity?” How so?
It’s all in the attitude you take. Whenever you take pro bono work, because there’s a limited budget, there can be a tendency to cut corners, push timelines to accommodate paid work, use junior resources, and find quick solutions. We didn’t do this. We used our standard process and treated it like any other paid engagement, rather than just squeezing it in between other paid projects.
Why is it important for organizations like this to have a strong digital presence?
They’re competing for charity dollars, and people typically make decisions about what to contribute through the website, since it’s often the first point of contact. It’s important to help readers understand what the charity does and the contribution they make to the society.
How, specifically, has Havas Canada helped Habitat for Humanity boost their digital presence?
We redesigned their website to make it more user-friendly and responsive, and reformulated more engaging content. We built their content management system. All of this makes it more accessible, which in turn will help to promote awareness, increase traffic, and raise conversions.
Why is it important for this agency to lend itself to these type of do-good projects?
It’s good for the community, the team, and the soul. Specifically, we chose Habitat for Humanity because Toronto has the lowest housing affordability rate in Canada—outside of Vancouver. It’s important for us as a team and a business to give back to our community in ways that relate to its current shortcomings.
What are some steps that other Villages can take to make a bigger impact in their communities?
Every community has its own unique challenges that people living there are well aware of. It’s about finding an organization that is effectively making a difference in that space. Havas is such a talented and multidisciplinary group of people that there are sure to be many ways to help. But to do it right is an investment, so we need to give the people directly involved the latitude to do the work and not just make it a free-time activity.