With statistics like this, it’s no surprise that the conversation around mental health is getting louder. This can only be a good thing, of course, with increased awareness helping to break down stigmas and to encourage people to seek help.
But when it comes to brands, is getting involved always a good thing? We’ve seen a multitude of brands generate worthwhile awareness about mental health in recent times, but we’ve also seen a surprising number jump on the bandwagon with shallow, and somewhat arbitrary messaging.
Earlier this year, Burger King’s ‘#feelyourway’ campaign resulted in a backlash, with consumers criticising the brand for using mental health in order to make money (as well as take a cheap shot at rival McDonalds).
it's ok to #feelyourway pic.twitter.com/JiMDnzWCaI
— Burger King (@BurgerKing) May 1, 2019
So, what do brands need to do to ensure they don’t follow in Burger King’s footsteps? Recently, ITV launched ‘Get Britain Talking’ – a vertically integrated campaign, supported by YoungMinds and Mind, in aid of children’s mental health. Here’s a few reasons why I think it is a powerful and cleverly executed campaign – and what others can learn from it in relation to brand purpose.
Turning talk into action
ITV recently kicked off its ‘Get Britain Talking’ campaign in the middle of one of its most popular programmes, Britain’s Got Talent. During last Saturday night’s show, presenters Ant and Dec stopped usual proceedings to announce the launch of the campaign, which is based on the fact that there has been a 48% rise in anxiety and depression in British children over the past five years.
Stating that “it’s so important for our wellbeing to get together with people we care about and talk”, the presenters went on to call for a minute’s silence, encouraging viewers at home to take the opportunity to have a chat with those around them.
It’s easy to be cynical about a large television network such as ITV and its stance against mental health. However, instead of merely talking about it, ITV has taken action – weaving its campaign into a programme where its target audience is most likely to hear it.
Viewers are much more likely to switch off during ad breaks, making the interruption of a prime time TV show even more powerful. The decision to bring this topic inside of Britain’s Got Talent, which is a typically positive and escapist-style of programme, also tells us that ITV is serious about the issue.
Another interesting element of ITV’s campaign (and one which helps to elevate its sense of authenticity) is the network’s acknowledgement of its own part in the wider issues that negatively impact young children.
More specifically, it recognises how television and social media can contribute to screen addiction, as well as how it can act as a source of distraction (and prevent kids from talking to their family when they’re struggling).
During the campaign’s launch, Ant McPartlin says: “We all know that these days there are more distractions than ever, because we are looking at the telly, or looking at our phones.”
By acknowledging this during one of its most-viewed shows, ITV was able to turn something that is arguably part of the problem into the medium for an important message.
In other words, this acts as proof that the organisation is ‘practising what it preaches’, and not merely delivering an empty ad. In turn, its campaign becomes even more impactful, and potentially combats any of the more cynical responses from viewers.
Creating a unified message
ITV’s campaign also involved a ‘silent ad break’, where five sponsoring brands participated in a one-take advertising performance. Nothing was said, but each brand held up signs to indicate their support of the campaign, and to again encourage viewers to use the silence as a chance to talk with loved ones.
This was a particularly clever way of including advertising support, as it did not detract from the campaign in any way. Instead, it added to it.
With the likes of Dunelm and Gillette deliberately asking us not to watch, it leaves viewers with very few options – either do as they say, or to continue watching and further absorb the message.
This is clever because, more often than not, brands can appear as if they’re using important issues as a vehicle to convey their own marketing messages, and to ultimately sell more products. This can be the case with any important issue, but particularly if it is one that has no direct link or relation to the brand itself.
Again, Burger King is a good example. Sunny D is another. Earlier this year, the beverage brand tweeted ‘I can’t do this anymore’, which turned out to be in reference to the Super Bowl. However, it was also interpreted as being deliberately cryptic (as well as a poor attempt at Gen Z-style ‘slang’), leading many to criticise the brand for being insensitive. Whether or not the intention of Sunny D’s tweet was misconstrued, this example highlights the dangers of brands referencing topics like mental health, especially when they’ve shown no signs of interest in the topic previously.
In contrast to this, ITV’s vertical approach – which asks brands to align with the tone of its wider campaign – ensures a unified and powerful message throughout. With the sole aim of getting people talking, it’s a nice example of brand purpose in action.
Whatever its intentions, if ITV also has a headline presenter mocking an autistic teenager, the campaign will not be as effective as it could have been.