Bell tackles tough topic

The telco gets Canadians talking about mental health - an effort that resulted in its largest number of text messages sent and long distance calls made in one day.

One in five Canadians suffers directly from issues related to mental health, but there is still a huge stigma around mental illness. Many people will not get the help they need because they are simply too afraid to talk about it. To make matters worse, mental health issues have traditionally been underfunded while costing the nation’s economy over $51 billion every year due to lost productivity.
For the first time in Canada’s history, a large corporation took the cause under its wings. Over the next five years, Bell has pledged to donate $50 million to mental health initiatives across the country. However, it also wanted to engage Canadians to take part in the cause.

Bell set out to build on what its core business is about – telecommunications – as well as its message to consumers: “Life just got better.” It wanted to capitalize on an activity that people are repeatedly doing – talking and texting – and give them a reason to do it even more. Bell also wanted to make donating support for mental health effortless, and to associate the cause with a charismatic, credible spokesperson.
The big idea emerged: Bell would get people to “talk” for the cause. The act of communicating became the main idea that led not only to a message and a creative execution, but also triggered the mechanics that would get people to act/donate.

Clara Hughes, a six-time Olympic medalist who has her own personal story of depression, was chosen to be Bell’s spokesperson for the cause. A simple but compelling approach was taken: put Hughes’s world famous smile front and centre, and sign, “Let’s talk.”
The national integrated campaign by Lg2, with media handled by Media Experts, ran from Jan. 17, to Feb. 9, 2011, with a message encouraging people to talk and text for the cause on Feb. 9. For each text message sent and long distance call made on that day by Bell and Bell Aliant customers, $0.05 was donated to mental health initiatives.
The campaign launched with before and after print executions, and included TV, OOH (billboards and digital), web banners and website (created by Teehan + Lax), in-store, rink boards and digital signage in the Bell Centre, radio and PR, which included Hughes on CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada,  CTV’s eTalk and Canada AM.

Bell recorded its largest number of text messages sent and long distance calls made in one day. On Feb. 9,
Bell and Bell Aliant customers talked and texted 66,079,236 times (the previous record of 52 million was
set when Sidney Crosby scored
the gold-winning goal at the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic Games). In just one day, Canadians raised $3,303,961.80 for mental health initiatives.
Bell is looking at renewing this initiative in the future, with the potential to create a greater impact through relevant partnerships.

Judges’ Comments
“Targeting mental health for cause-related efforts was an exceedingly brave choice for Bell. The significant brain and money resources that went into this campaign signaled to consumers and mental health advocates that Bell’s commitment to this issue is legitimate and clearly driven from the top.”
Pamela Ross, Sunnybrook Foundation

“Bell’s ‘Let’s Talk’ campaign made use of their core business to advance
their social responsibility efforts, which made them stand out. Taking the risk
of tackling an issue which could be viewed as controversial, Bell was able to assist those who may have otherwise hesitated to open up in the past. The Olympian spokesperson provided the pragmatic life example bringing the campaign to life with its consumers.”
Sarah Dayboll, Fairmont Hotels & Resorts

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