The Fonz. A drunk Incredible Hulk. A cobra from the Bronx Zoo in New York. These things don’t have much in common, but the one thing that they do is what matters: they all exist as real people in the land of Twitter. And four weeks ago, I joined the ranks just after the announcement was made that the Royal Canadian Mint would be ceasing production of Canada’s one cent coin.
So for fun, I decided to give our penny a voice. I became the Canadian Penny.
At 5:30 p.m. on the day of the announcement, I had just closed my last Photoshop doc of the day. I sorted out a decent Twitter handle and sent out the four words I would’ve chucked out had I just been told I wasn’t wanted by someone I thought loved me:
“What? This is bullsh*t.”
Within minutes, reporters from major news sources began re-tweeting the penny’s snarky thoughts. The followers jumped exponentially. And fast-forward to a of couple hours later and the Mint itself had to step in and share that while they loved the enthusiasm behind the penny, they were in no way associated with the account.
Nope – they sure weren’t. This was just a 27-year-old graphic designer who was absolutely loving the fact that a slew of Canadians were banding together to mourn the loss of this once-beloved coin.
24 hours later, the account had amassed more than 2,500 followers. The penny had been quoted across the country in various newspapers and on TV. And I had an idea. While it was boatloads of fun to be a snarky clown, I thought some good could come from this. I approached High Road about turning this into a charitable cause: Why not ask Canadians to donate their pennies as the penny’s last wish?
ShowYourRoll.ca was conceptualized, designed, and built over a weekend by me and members of the High Road writing, web development and PR team. And we’ve had some amazing support since from wonderful charities and individuals looking to make a difference (even a nice nod from former Dragon’s Den member W. Brett Wilson, who listed our initiative on his website).
With the help of High Road Ottawa’s connected and creative PR folks, local media picked up the story and I’ve done interviews both as myself and as the penny with CBC Morning, CFRA, and CTV Ottawa Morning Live.
We even had much-beloved Ottawa blogger turned CBC journalist Hilary Duff start her own penny drive, raising money for the Ottawa Youth and Services Bureau and even a write-up on the official Twitter blog.
This wasn’t about me being a whiny piece of change anymore. This was about the support of local charities and doing some good. The penny isn’t going away – it’s now a copper beacon of hope… but less cheesy-sounding. It’s been really amazing watching this initiative grow, and I’m excited to see more and more coins go to great causes.
Big thanks to everyone who supported the campaign, and especially to those who donated their precious pennies to those in need.