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The Hows & Whos of Mental Health In Advertising 

Products and services are cool, but have you ever tried feeling seen? 

Whether someone is perusing a city street or the web, they’re apt to be swimming in ads. Products and services calling to be seen saturate every corner of the modern periphery, presenting a ubiquitous stage where advertisers can spark conversation and make a positive social impact

Coupled with a synchronous end to the stigma around mental illness, the connectivity of the advertising world allows—and subsequently puts pressure upon—brands to consider not only consumer behavior in their ad concept design but also its weight on the audience’s psychological state.

As the mental health conversation swells, a brand’s ad contributions can quickly come off as contrived rather than constructive. So, how can a company modulate its campaigns for maximum mental health statistics? 

We’ll start at the roots of mental health in advertising and arrive at tips on how to advertise mental health services and more, exploring the hows and whos along the way.

Stigma To Brand Story: How Did We Get Here?

Mental health awareness wasn’t always a thing. Now it’s thriving… but how? The National Alliance On Mental Illness (NAMI) NAMI planted the seeds the movement branched out from.

Swing the lens to 1970, a time when admittance to seeking out mental health services could lose someone their status, career, and relationships.  Western cultural acceptance—let alone support—for depression, anxiety, addiction, and other struggles with mental health simply didn’t exist yet, nor did Mental Health Awareness Week or the internet. 

Armed with envelopes, phone trees, and fax machines, NAMI members set out on a grassroots mission to break the stigma and establish the mental health foundation we see today. Publicly calling out insensitive portrayals of mental illness whenever possible, they cultivated a new paradigm for mental health on TV, legislation, and anything in between.

Several tireless ad campaigns and celebrity allies later, wheels were turning and combativity morphed into more civil storytelling tactics. Anecdotes resounded throughout the media, resonating with the masses. 

The time has come for advertisers to amplify their message. 

Guards Are Up! Gen Z Smells an Ingenuine Mental Health Awareness Campaign a Mile Away.

Gen Z openly prefers psyche-centric brand messaging, and a 2022 Ogilvy study suggests that 70% could use more tender loving care in the mental health sector of their lives than any other. With media consumption and NAMI’s messages intricately woven into this tech-savvy generation’s warp and woof, any brand that won’t comply will likely fall from grace. 

That said, this means more than happy faces.

Authentic Mental Health Messaging
Burger King

Many young viewers deduced insincerity in Burger King’s ‘Real Meal’ ad campaign and disseminated criticism. Whether or not the corporation was capitalizing on the mental health crisis, the lesson here is clear.

It is not enough to sport a mental health awareness ribbon or run a single mental health campaign for World Mental Health Day. In an age of interactivity and authenticity, mental health must be incorporated into one’s brand identity to truly make an impact on the mental health stigma.

Even if a brand’s purpose is not within the ballpark of impact production or therapeutic outcomes, it can contribute to the cause by fostering self-care, stress management, and full-spectrum inclusivity, and ditching advertising tactics that are destructive to body image and self-esteem.

Mindful Advertising Strategy: Mental Health Campaign Examples In Motion

The Ad Council’s Mental Health Initiative calls for brands, orgs, and agencies across all media outlets to hop on the train and not just paste mental health support ads at the station. Through mindful brand management and inter-industry collaboration, a company can take full corporate social responsibility and do some serious good (and sales).

These bada** brands are leading by example.

Impactful Mental Health Advertising
  1. Skip One-Sided Convos

Jansport employed its ad visibility to point viewers to a place where they could share their stories, find support, and discover advice for a peaceful life in its #LightenTheLoad campaign.

  1. Stay True to Your Voice

True-to-tone and markedly sincere, online UK-based bank Monzo’s mental health awareness campaign authenticates its mission with ad copy that mirrors its brand voice and actions.

  1. Synergize Your Mission

DeMellier launched a totes cool tote collection in collaboration with female artists to give back and bring awareness to various causes, demonstrating its thoughtful dedication to community.

  1. Take Care of Creatives

Walking the mental health talk means taking care of your ad creators, too! In a study conducted by Mind and Nabs, six in 10 respondents said their work had a negative impact on their psychological well-being in the past year. With stats like these coming from those who dream up the most mental health campaign ideas, it’s better to be like David&Goliath and take action. Mental health PTO or self-care seminars, anyone?

Moving the Masses: From Mental Health Print Ads To Interactive Art

Although the future of mental health campaigns is unclear, Curmudgeon Group can say one thing for sure. As times change and new insights come to light, an organization with a stubbornly caring and artfully strategic production company at its back will be an avid contender. 

Through experiential advertising and symphonically curated ads that evoke powerful curiosity, our creative agency has proven time and again that we can take a brand well beyond half-hearted campaigns for Mental Health Awareness Day and put the ‘ad’ in their mental health advocacy. 

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