An ad campaign that parodies celebrity culture to focus attention on the lives of real women who are living in poverty is turning heads in Toronto and beyond.

Giant posters have been put up around town, depicting what appear to be celebrity tabloid magazine covers. On closer inspection, however, the magazine covers feature real-life stories of women living in poverty.

TV ads take a similar approach, using the familiar conventions of celebrity entertainment shows to shine a light on real women’s struggles with poverty and the ways WoodGreen Community Services can help them. Specifically, the ads focus on WoodGreen’s Homeward Bound program that’s aimed at helping single mothers earn a college diploma through a variety of supports that include paid tuition, affordable housing and childcare.

Since the launch of the multiplatform advertising campaign, the ads have been the subject of discussion on TV shows in Europe and Australia.

One of the creative minds behind the pro bono campaign, Denise Rossetto, says she hoped it would strike a chord, but never assumed it would.

"I had no clue that it would have this much impact," she told CTV's Canada AM Thursday.

Rossetto says the campaign is not an indictment of our fascination with the details of celebrities' lives.

Instead, she explained that creative team was simply struck by the thought that most people know more about Kim Kardashian than they do about people living on the margins in their own neighbourhoods.

"We think it's fun," she said, explaining that they enjoy keeping up with the Kardashians.

"But we're saying we should just be aware of what's going on in the community."

Rossetta said her agency, DDB Canada, worked with WoodGreen to ensure every story highlighted in the campaign is real and true, and the women who appear in the ads are WoodGreen "graduates."

"We didn't want to make up something, it was really important to us," she said.

In a statement, WoodGreen's COO of Anne Babcock said the public response has been "amazing."

"It's been bigger than we ever imagined," she said, noting a spike in interest and donations.

"But the biggest impact we have seen is around raising awareness for WoodGreen, our Homeward Bound program, and poverty," she said.

As part of the campaign, WoodGreen is inviting supporters to sign a petition posted on the organization's website, aimed at urging the provincial government to include funding for the Homeward Bound program in its next budget.