For all the progress we’ve made on talking about mental health, it remains a taboo topic among some parts of the population. Suicide is the biggest cause of death among men aged under 45 in the UK, with an average of 84 men taking their own life each week.
In 2007, mental health charities Mind and Rethink Mental Illness launched a joint initiative, Time to Change, to challenge the stigma and discrimination that is often associated with experiencing mental health problems. Their adults campaign is now aimed primarily at 25-44-year-old men – the kind who love bonding with their friends over a drink or a game of football, but can be notoriously uncomfortable when it comes to discussing their feelings.
In recent years, Time to Change has launched ads urging men to step in and support their friends when it comes to mental health. But as its research revealed, even those who agree with the need to address the topic can be reluctant to do so because they don’t know how.
Sometimes we say we're fine, when we're not. With 1 in 4 people experiencing a mental health problem each year, not all of us are fine. So if you're mate's acting differently, ask twice.Help us spread the word #AskTwice
Posted by Time to Change on Monday, 1 October 2018
In response to this, Time to Change commissioned Ogilvy & Mather to create Ask Twice, which encourages people to dig a little deeper if they think their friend or relative is acting differently. Inspired by the finding that people usually reply with ‘I’m fine’ when asked how they are – even when they’re feeling far from it – the campaign urges people to ask how they’re doing again, giving them a second chance to open up.
The campaign was supported by a Messenger bot which aims to help people navigate the conversations that might ensue as a result of asking twice. Created by Ogilvy & Mather in partnership with Facebook Creative Shop, the bot – which launched in May – offers advice on talking about mental health and provides links to resources.
Jo Loughran, Director of Time To Change, says the bot was created to help remove some of the anxiety people might feel around discussing mental health with friends or others.
“The Ask Twice campaign has successfully encouraged people to ‘ask twice’ as a way of showing genuine interest and support for someone who might be struggling with their mental health. The next task was to empower and build confidence in having that conversation. There are often resulting questions from those about to ask twice. What if my friend really opens up? What if they don’t want to talk? What if I say the wrong thing? The chatbot gave us a way to encourage those who might be nervous, dispel common misconceptions and give small but powerful tips in an efficient and interesting way,” explains Loughran.
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Your attitude to mental health could change someone’s life #mentalhealthawareness
A post shared by Time to Change (@timetochangecampaign) on May 28, 2019 at 3:23am PDT
One of the key challenges for Creative Shop was developing the right tone of voice for the Ask Twice campaign – and the right character for the bot. “We worked closely with Time to Change to establish a tone and language structure that felt human and colloquial, without downplaying the issue or being patronising,” explains Alex Williamson, Creative Director at Ogilvy UK.
This language was reviewed regularly by people with personal experience of mental health problems, who provided insights on what felt right and wrong. Creating a robot character helped make the experience more transparent – “chatbots work when it’s clear that they aren’t trying to mimic human behaviour or claim that they have emotion,” says Williamson.
It was also important to create a range of different assets to engage people. “With the topic being so nuanced, we weren’t going to assume that everyone in our audience experienced the same barriers or had the same questions when it came to asking a mate twice. Different people respond to different triggers, so it was important that our creative reflected that,” says Williamson.
“After our first batch of content was live for a short period of time, we looked at the performance of each asset to help determine which tone, message and visual worked best for the audience and then developed a new, more concise set of assets that put those learnings into action.”
The bot was promoted via Click to Chat ads and an optimised version of Time to Change’s Ask Twice online advertising film. The campaign has reached over 9 million users so far and has resulted in over 4,000 Messenger conversations. It has also proved popular on Instagram, with one post, which echoes the style of popular memes on the platform, generating 2 million views.
With Time to Change planning to build on its Ask Twice campaign for the next two years, the team hopes the chatbot will prove a useful resource for people of all genders who might be preparing to speak with a friend in need of support. Time to Change is also considering whether the bot might work for employers as a tool for helping staff to look out for their colleagues . If the engagement rates so far are anything to go by, it’s clear there is a demand for new tools that can help people approach the subject.
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