Bell applies ‘Let’s Talk’ to the struggles of the pandemic

The annual CSR campaign has updated its approach to reflect the urgent (and more relatable) mental health needs of Canadians.
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Bell’s mental health CSR campaign “Let’s Talk” is responding in a big way to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Everything about Bell Let’s Talk is different this year,” says Mary Deacon, chair of the initiative. “Everything we’re doing is virtual, including our engagement with schools and funding partners and the way we’re funding.”

Beyond minor updates, Bell typically only makes new creative for Let’s Talk every few years, but Deacon says it needed to depart from 2020’s messaging, which was focused primarily on frontline organizations.

Instead, the new creative — which includes six new videos in English and six in French — focuses not only on the increased need for services from those already dealing with mental illness, but also with rising demand caused by greater incidence of mental health struggles due to the pandemic.

Though they touch on different subjects, Deacon says the key theme that runs throughout the campaign is “now more than ever.”

“If not now, then when?” she says. “This is a moment for us, as a world but also as a country, to really seize the opportunity that has been created by the crisis and to really transform our mental health system and to make sure that people get the help that they need.”

The ads showcase that theme by reflecting both the experiences of researchers and mental health professionals, as well as those of people who are living with anxiety, depression and other conditions through situations that may resonate with the audience that much more this year. The goal, Deacon says, is to “underscore the urgency of taking action” – a message that is particularly relevant amid the pandemic – and show the ongoing importance of staying connected to each other.

In response to the uptick in mental health challenges in 2020, Bell provided $5 million in new funding to five mental health charities when the pandemic first hit in early 2020, Deacon says. The money was intended to help the organizations pivot to virtual service models and deal with the surge in demand as “38% of Canadians in general are saying COVID is having an impact on their mental health,” she adds.

Bell has also expanded this year’s campaign by including content on social media platforms Pinterest and Tiktok among the platforms where it will be counting the engagement that drives donations during the campaign. Deacon says audience growth is largest year-over-year on social media, and it is also where Bell has found its highest engagement with younger demographics, which she identifies as a priority because “they are our future.”

The campaign will include a new countable video released on “Let’s Talk” Day itself, which this year will be Jan. 28. Though she couldn’t get into exact details of what the video would be, Deacon says it is “extremely powerful” and will engage people in a way Bell may not have been able to otherwise.

On this year’s campaign, Bell once again worked with long-time agency partner Lg2, and Media Experts are the media agency of record for the campaign. It began on Jan. 6 and will run until “Let’s Talk” Day on Jan. 28.