The campaign launches “Whatever Gets You Talking,” a music video featuring rapper Akinyemi, pop icon Meghan Trainor and music and digital stars Addison Rae, Avery Cyrus, Bryce Xavier, James Henry, The McFarlands, Molly Burke, mxmtoon and brothers Zach Valentine and Pat Ramirez
NEW YORK, NY, May 14, 2020 — To coincide with Mental Health Awareness Month, the significant life experiences young people are missing out on this May—from prom to graduation, or new jobs and moving out—and the mental health challenges they may be facing, the Seize the Awkward campaign is launching a brand new music video and a suite of digital, social, radio and broadcast assets giving young people the inspiration, language and tools to check in with their friends and support their mental health. The national award-winning campaign, a collaboration between the Ad Council, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) and The Jed Foundation (JED), and created pro bono by creative agency Droga5, emphasizes that just because we’re physically distant doesn’t mean teens and young adults should remain socially distant.
Suicide is the second leading cause of death among young adults and for every youth suicide it is estimated that 100-200 others attempt suicide.  Young adulthood is a critical time when many people experience mental health issues as well as significant stress from life transitions such as gaining more independence and responsibility when moving from home and beginning college or a career.
Right now, it’s crucial that young people check in with their friends. Recent Ad Council COVID-19 research shows that, compared to older adults, young people report feeling more negative emotions such as isolation and depression related to COVID-19.  “Whatever Gets You Talking,” showcases the variety of ways young people can start and continue conversations about mental health with their friends, whether that be through a GIF, emoji, call or text.
“For many young people struggling with mental health issues, the fears and challenges resulting from COVID-19 have amplified what they’re going through,” said Heidi Arthur, Chief Campaign Development Officer at the Ad Council. “The new creative, brimming with energy and positivity, will provide our audience with support and give them access to tips and resources during this particularly difficult time.”
Directed by Kristian Mercado Figueroa, the music video speaks directly to viewers who might be struggling to find a way to reach out to a friend about their mental health. In a magical fashion, rapper Akinyemi's voice appears to guide viewers through the different ways they can reach out and ultimately start a conversation with their friends. Countless conversation starters are brought to life through a kaleidoscope of animation, found footage and mixed media created by a global crew of animators and artists. Big-name music and digital stars Addison Rae, Avery Cyrus, Bryce Xavier, James Henry, The McFarlands, Meghan Trainor, Molly Burke, mxmtoon and brothers Zach Valentine and Pat Ramirez have also lent their talents and make cameo appearances. The video marks the first time both Droga5 and the Ad Council has shot live action footage directed remotely in real-time following COVID-19 physical distancing measures.
“We all want to check in on our friends’ mental health but sometimes it can feel a bit awkward. That’s why for the next chapter of Seize the Awkward, we created ‘Whatever Gets You Talking’ to help break the ice—from a music video to GIFs, illustrations and partnerships with social platforms,” said Kevin Brady, Executive Creative Director at Droga5. “It’s such an important conversation and we’re humbled to help as many of them happen as possible.”
The music video is the new cornerstone of the fully integrated campaign and leads audiences to seizetheawkward.org. It is complemented by a suite of digital, social, radio and broadcast assets directing to seizetheawkward.org/coronavirus, a landing page offering young people creative ways to reach out and stay connected with their friends during this difficult time, as well as tips and guidance on managing their own emotional wellbeing. To make it easy for young people to act and reach out, 36 artists across the world have created over 70 specially crafted conversation starters - GIFs and stickers on GIPHY - that anyone can easily send to a friend they’re worried about. The original song “Whatever Gets You Talking” performed by Akinyemi will also be available across music streaming platforms.
The broadcast premiere of “Whatever Gets You Talking” will air during the “Graduate Together: America Honors the Class of 2020” prime time television special on May 16th at 8pm ET. The campaign will be supported with donated media from Google, YouTube, Instagram, TikTok and Tumblr with other partners and platforms later in the year. Snap Inc has also donated two national Snapchat filters spotlighting the campaign, with the second running May 15. Media agency, Initiative, is providing pro bono support by securing high-profile targeted media with Billboard, Complex, Gallery Media Group, IGN, MIQ, Pandora (Soundcloud), Spotify, Tastemade and Uproxx.
While checking in with a friend and talking about mental health can make a big difference, many young people are hesitant to do so because it can feel awkward. Seize the Awkward launched in 2018 to shift the perception of this potential awkward moment into something young people can move past. In previous iterations, the campaign focused on making the potential awkwardness around these conversations less daunting. This new iteration encourages 16 to 24-year-olds to act and start the conversation by giving them the tools and language to do so, particularly when many young people are reporting an increase in mental health challenges in response to these uncertain times.
“At the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, we know from research that connection and support can be lifesaving. Empowering young people to have conversations with their friends about mental health is especially important when those we care about might be struggling. This digital-first campaign equips teens and young adults with realistic, creative ways to invite caring conversations through video, social sharables, animated GIFs and other conversation starters,” said Dr. Christine Moutier, AFSP’s chief medical officer. “We are so pleased to be part of the Seize the Awkward campaign and thrilled by the new tools to help young people take their conversations to authentic, positive places.”
“We know that loneliness and isolation are significant risk factors for mental health challenges and/or suicidal behavior and that social connectedness is extremely protective for young people who may be struggling with mental health issues," said JED's Chief Programs & Operations Officer Katie Cunningham. "This campaign is incredibly empowering to young people by providing them with a framework for interacting with one another that aligns with their interests and also empowers them to be creative in engaging in healthy ways.”
Since its launch in January 2018, the campaign has garnered 35.2 million video views and over 923,000 sessions on seizetheawkward.org, where visitors can explore resources and tools to help them start a conversation with a peer around mental health. Most recently, the campaign received the 2020 Shorty Award for Best Use of a Spokesperson for its partnership with musician Billie Eilish. To learn more about the campaign, visit seizetheawkward.org and @SeizeTheAwkward on Instagram. To get immediate, free support 24/7, call 1-800-273-8255 or text “SEIZE” to 741741.
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP)
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is dedicated to saving lives and bringing hope to those affected by suicide. AFSP creates a culture that's smart about mental health through education and community programs, develops suicide prevention through research and advocacy, and provides support for those affected by suicide. Led by CEO Robert Gebbia and headquartered in New York, and with a public policy office in Washington, D.C., AFSP has local chapters in all 50 states with programs and events nationwide. Learn more about AFSP in its latest Annual Report, and join the conversation on suicide prevention by following AFSP on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.
The Jed Foundation (JED)
JED is a nonprofit that exists to protect emotional health and prevent suicide for our nation's teens and young adults. We're partnering with high schools and colleges to strengthen their mental health, substance abuse and suicide prevention programs and systems. We're equipping teens and young adults with the skills and knowledge to help themselves and each other. We're encouraging community awareness, understanding and action for young adult mental health. Learn more at jedfoundation.org.
The Ad Council
The Ad Council has a long history of creating life-saving public service communications in times of national crisis, starting in the organization’s earliest days during World War II to September 11th and natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Sandy. Its deep relationships with media outlets, the creative community, issue experts and government leaders make the organization uniquely poised to quickly distribute life-saving information to millions of Americans.
The Ad Council is where creativity and causes converge. The non-profit organization brings together the most creative minds in advertising, media, technology and marketing to address many of the nation’s most important causes. The Ad Council has created many of the most iconic campaigns in advertising history. Friends Don’t Let Friends Drive Drunk. Smokey Bear. Love Has No Labels.
The Ad Council’s innovative social good campaigns raise awareness, inspire action and save lives. To learn more, visit AdCouncil.org, follow the Ad Council’s communities on Facebook and Twitter, and view the creative on YouTube.
Droga5, part of Accenture Interactive, is a creative agency with offices in London and New York. From integrated brand experiences to business design—and everything in between—Droga5’s work forges real, emotional connections with people and drives results through creativity. Droga5 was founded in 2006 and has been recognized as Agency of the Year more than 25 times and was named both AdAge’s and Adweek’s Agency of the Decade (2010-2019). Droga5 clients include Amazon, BioFreeze, Chase, Essentia, Facebook, Harley Davidson, Heineken, The Hershey Company, IHOP, Johnsonville, Kimberly-Clark, LVMH, Maserati, Mattress Firm, The New York Times, and United Rentals. Visit Droga5.com or @droga5 on all social platforms to get to know us better.
The Ad Council
 CDC; ACHA NCHA
 Ad Council: Coping with COVID-19, What Americans Need, Feel and Fear About the Coronavirus Pandemic. 2020. Available at: http://covidresearch.adcouncilkit.org/findings_week2/