Kids Help Phone dials up its tough talk with a new AOR

In the first campaign from McCann Canada, the non-profit is showing how some young Canadians grapple with grown-up mental health issues.

A new campaign from Kids Help Phone is shining a light on the “adult-sized” mental health issues that many young Canadians face.

The campaign is the first piece of work for KHP from new agency of record McCann Canada, and consists of a series of films featuring adult actors reciting texts and messages left by young Canadians expressing grief, depression and anxiety.

“Society is open to embracing the fact that grown-ups have mental health challenges and need support, but that understanding hasn’t moved to the same place for so many young people who have to deal with very similar, very complicated challenges,” says Ryan Timms, president of McCann Canada. “It’s a tough topic for people. This is why Kids Help Phone is so important.”

While mental health issues were rising in prominence prior to it, the problem has only been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The organization saw a surge in the use of its services that drove a 350% increase in calls.

“Kids have fewer outlets, having spent the better part of the year in a virtual school environment with less access to friends and spending more time online with fewer points of contact to find the support that’s crucial,” explains Timms. “And in many ways, they’ve been even more isolated and stuck than a lot of adults have been.”

This is the lead-off campaign for McCann Canada as Kids Help Phone’s new AOR, which is mandated to help refresh the brand’s identity and define a new platform, with support from McCann Montreal for the Quebec market. It was selected following a closed, qualified search conducted earlier this year.

The organization has been responding to the surge with campaigns specifically to counter some of these issues, including a letter-writing initiative that encouraged kids to keep in touch with each other and spots that showed kids don’t need to wait until they’re in crisis to avail themselves of its services.

But now it’s trying to raise awareness about the issue among its adult audience, “making the conversation happen so meaningful things can come out of it,” says Timms.

The campaign launched on Monday and is running on national broadcast, YouTube and social.