Psychosiphobia

Coining a term is an ambitious creative concept to support, but that didn't faze Vancouver's Grey Worldwide Northwest, which recently launched an integrated campaign for Coast Mental Health. The campaign centres on the invented word 'psychosiphobia' - fear of the mentally ill.

Coining a term is an ambitious creative concept to support, but that didn’t faze Vancouver’s Grey Worldwide Northwest, which recently launched an integrated campaign for Coast Mental Health. The campaign centres on the invented word ‘psychosiphobia’ – fear of the mentally ill.

‘Mental illness is a topic most people are uncomfortable with,’ says CD Craig Redmond, on the insight behind the campaign. ‘We decided to challenge people’s prejudiced perceptions.’

Three print executions – set on a park bench, in an elevator and diner – feature people keeping their distance from a mentally ill person. A radio spot spoofs serious PSAs, with a female announcer outlining all the symptoms of ‘psychosiphobia.’ All efforts drive users to the microsite, www.psychosiphobia.com. The creatives even did a Wikipedia entry for the word.

The campaign also includes OOH, online, guerrilla and TV, and rolled out throughout the fall (the TV launched late last month, and wasn’t available at press time).

The street component involved painting the new word at the corner of Vancouver’s Seymour and East Hastings streets, the line between the good and bad sides of town, and street teams handed out info about mental illness.

We asked Rob Tarry, ACD at Vancouver’s Rethink, and Brian Howlett, CD/partner at Toronto’s AMW to weigh in on whether psychosiphobia works for them.

Concept

BH: The idea that those who are uncomfortable around the mentally ill suffer from their own disorder is a novel start point. Coming up with a term for it – ‘psychosiphobia’ – seems like the logical next step. But it’s an ambitious idea, and the creative team has set itself up for a huge challenge.

RT: Everything rests on the shoulders of this word pulled from thin air – an unreadable word at that. This makes for a very shaky structure, and makes it a campaign about an idea rather than a campaign about mental illness. And if people simply don’t get the idea (show your friends and neighbours), the rest of the discussion is pretty academic.

Print

BH: In terms of the executions, I love the photography, and the woman on the bench is the clearest expression of the concepts, in that the young girl is being moved away from a mentally ill person. However, the guy in the diner looks like he might be a trucker at the end of a long shift; and the people in the elevator haven’t obviously distanced themselves from the guy, they’re simply in a different elevator.

Finally, I understand they want to hammer home the word, ‘psychosiphobia,’ that’s at the heart of the campaign, but smearing it across the visual certainly belabours the point.

RT: If nothing else, let’s all agree on this: no more ads set in retro diners. Or park benches. Here the tag line might’ve clarified things a bit, but I think it means ‘Even though you suffer from mysispoanxcnfcofhaflophobia, the mentally ill have it way worse, buddy.’ Well, colour me chastised, I guess.

Wikipedia entry:

RT: Wikipedia is a nice bit of garnish but kind of a so-what if the underlying idea isn’t airtight.

Radio

BH: The idea of riffing on the conventions of public service radio – plaintive voice, swelling music – has been done to death. And unless you’re really paying attention, you might mistake it for just another spot about just another illness, rather than one that’s attempting to turn that convention on its ear.

RT: I love radio – it’s an idea laid bare. No models, no camera angles, no flash animation, nowhere to hide. Our ears can feel it: this is an unwieldy idea that takes half the spot to explain, with little payoff once all the explaining is over.

Website

BH: It’s consistent with the campaign, in that it leverages the print and radio ads. And it’s well put together and easy to navigate. But it doesn’t go much deeper than repeating the messages that are already in the ads.

RT: It’s mostly a print ad taken online with rollovers and some oddly vague suggestions on how to help. But really, what is it I’m being asked to do? If you want to change my mind about mental illness, then give me reasons. Don’t just tell me to be nicer.

The creds

Client – Coast Mental Health

Andrea Keen, communications manager

Agency – Grey Worldwide Northwest

Craig Redmond, CD; David Wong, AD; Mike Leger, copywriter; Andrew McKinley, interactive director; Dennis Isaacson & Nicole Eus, agency producers; Gwen Hardy and Mike Leslie, account team

Production

Robert Kenny Studios; KoKo Productions; JMB Post; Steam Films; SMAK Street Marketing