‘Seize the Awkward’ campaign releases animated short inspiring young people to check in with friends and support their mental health; video features 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.
As May is National Health Month in the U.S., and with June only a few days away, AWN is happy to share a new animated music video, Whatever Gets You Talking, produced by the national award-winning Seize the Awkward campaign, a collaboration between The Ad Council, The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) and The Jed Foundation (JED). Created pro bono by creative agency Droga5, the short, along with a suite of digital, social, radio, and broadcast assets, is designed to give young people the inspiration, language, and tools to check in with their friends and support their mental health. It 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. 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.
Droga5 executive producer Jeremy Fox turned to full service production and post production company, Nice Shoes to produce, edit and finish the campaign, which was directed by Kristian Mercado Figueroa, known for directing content for Billie Eilish, Awkwafina, Migos and Planned Parenthood, among others.
Whatever Gets You Talking 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 also lent their talents and make cameo appearances. The video marks the first time both Droga5 and the Ad Council have shot live-action footage directed remotely in real-time following COVID-19 physical distancing measures.
“I'm inspired by the culture and zeitgeist in large,” Mercado Figueroa says. “I feel popular culture and the lexicon we all share, and experience currently is fair game visually. The biggest thing is we wanted to capture what keeps people together, which is really the internet and being online, regardless of platform, so the visual language pulls heavily from things you'd experience online. It's also fun, and wild and all over the place, and I'm attracted to things that shift constantly and surprise.”
“We want the audience to be amused, surprised, or feel something, and the work we do reflects that ethos,” the director adds. “It was a collaborative effort and all the different styles contributed to the free-form style, jumping in unexpected ways. So, mixing between animation styles, CGI, hand drawn, cel, motion graphics, and just rocking a cool range.”
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.
“We loved working on this campaign,” notes Thomas Sponzo, executive producer, development at Nice Shoes. “Talking about mental health is an important issue that became even more prominent in the world’s day-to-day lives as the project went on. It's always a pleasure for us to work with Droga5 and Kristian. They were able to inject a life and humor into the subject matter that meant we could have so much fun with the animation. Luckily, when it came to having to pivot the campaign to a remote project, we were well prepared as we have been working remotely between our offices since 2011.”
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.
Source: The Ad Council
Dan Sarto is Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Animation World Network.