Ad Council Targets Mental Health Crisis In Its Largest Initiative Ever

The Ad Council has announced the largest initiative in its 80-year history: a planned $65 million seven-year Mental Health Initiative, not including the value of donated media.

That would surpass the $50+ million raised for the Council’s COVID-19 Vaccine Education Initiative, which the Council says has reached 75% of all Americans eligible to be vaccinated since launching in February 2021.

The Huntsman Mental Health Institute at the University of Utah has already committed $15 million to the new initiative, which the Ad Council said aims to “change social norms, reduce stigma around mental health and encourage people to take a proactive approach to their mental health issues.”



Providing support for the fundraising effort, the Ad Council today also released results from a survey of 3,400 Americans aged 16 to 65 that it conducted this past spring. Just about half of Americans (49%) said they have a mental health condition, but less than half of those (48%) said they’re getting help or treatment.

The new Mental Health Initiative follows a shift in Ad Council strategy that began with the vaccine initiative: use a coalition of brands, marketers, media companies, nonprofits and others to back separate campaigns targeting specific audiences, along with numerous other elements like local activations, influencer marketing and employer programs.

The vaccine initiative produced more than 800 pieces of PSA content, provided information in over seven languages, hosted more than 150 events, worked with nearly 300 influencers and trusted messengers, and garnered more than $305 million in donated media, the Ad Council said.

“We’ve seen the incredible progress that can be made when the Ad Council convenes a coalition of partners around a singular issue,” Lisa Sherman, Ad Council president and chief executive officer, said in a press release. “We have all been touched by the mental health crisis—it’s one that we’ve experienced for many years, but which was greatly exacerbated by COVID-19 and a confluence of other factors including the ongoing fight for racial justice and the challenging economy…. Together, we’re uniquely poised to reshape the conversations around mental health and help millions of Americans when they need it most.”

Individual Ad Council mental health campaigns to be absorbed into the new initiative include Droga5’s “Seize the Awkward,” targeted at young adults; Casanova//McCann/Egami’s “Sound it Out,” targeted at parents of middle schoolers; TBWA’s “Don't’ Wait, Reach Out,” targeted at  veterans; and an FCB/Mediabrands campaign to be launched in spring 2023 mainly targeting male adults in the Black, Hispanic, Asian American Pacific Islander and LGBTQ+ communities.

Media companies and platforms currently supporting the Ad Council’s mental health campaigns -- including Audacy, Google/YouTube, Meta, Pinterest, Snap Inc. and TikTok -- will continue under the new initiative, the Council said.

On the agency front, The Council said it is also working on “ground game” strategy with Joy Collective to reach Black audiences, Latinovations to reach Hispanics, and Values Partnership to reach faith communities.

Community-focused organizations and programs coming on board include UnidosUS and How Sweet the Sound.

To reach workers through their employers, the Ad Council said it will deploy the Health Action Alliance, which has more that 4,000 participating companies.

Additionally, the Ad Council will develop a “best-in-class insights and analytics engine to inform and evaluate the impact of relevant content.”

The entire initiative will be guided by a panel of experts, including representatives from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, The Curtis Center for Health Equity, the Chester M. Pierce MD Division of Global Psychiatry, The Jed Foundation and the Mount Sinai Adolescent Health Center, and GLAAD.

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