PR Stunt Watch: A Mental Health Awareness Week Special

PR Stunt Watch: A Mental Health Awareness Week Special

Mental Health Awareness Week has become somewhat of a purposeful playground for brands in recent years, but when executions are as good as these first two - we should be happy to play along.

McDonald's drops the ‘happy’ from Happy Meals

McDonald’s dropping the ‘happy’ from Happy Meals is inspired. A good marker for a great idea is that you see it and immediately ask ‘AS IF they’ve not done that before?!’ and McDonald’s had not done this before. For the first time in 38 years, the Happy Meal’s iconic ‘smile’ was altered to kick start a campaign that helps kids develop their emotional intelligence - specifically helping them to understand that happy is not the only emotion available to them.

Rio Ferdinand - whose young children suffered mentally after their mother’s death - fronted the initiative. The McDonald’s website provided learning materials for kids, and some research helped explain the parental pressure we feel in trying to protect kids from difficult emotions, but the earned power comes from the positive disruption of a brand icon.

Supported by McDonald’s long standing partnership with BBC Children in Need, the only reason this campaign won’t clean up at every award ceremony is because it is McDonalds. Whenever big and not necessarily healthy brands zone in on kids, there will always be scrutiny and scepticism - but for me, there are few more effective offsetters than those behind the golden arches. To put another way, I’m lovin’ it.

Wolves' suicide prevention video

Another mental health campaign that caught the eye recently was a piece of content not delivered by giant ad teams and seasoned directors, but a football team - specifically Wolverhampton Wanderers.

The 10-minute film saw fans responding to a sign raising awareness about male suicide. Local artist Reepa stood with a sign and a blindfold, encouraging others to give him a hug or talk about their experiences of suicide but without fear of judgement. The ‘stunt’ took place outside of Molineux ahead of Wolves’ Premier League clash against Luton Town but provoked an incredible reaction from all football fans.

PR Stuntwatch regulars will know this is not the first time, nor the second time, I have written about powerful mental health campaigns involving football clubs. Norwich City’s work with The Samaritans and Chelsea’s work with Vinnie Jones and Three have all delivered effective, moving campaigns in recent months which could suggest that ‘football team does mental health’ is becoming a saturated space. But can a space ever be saturated if the message still needs to be heard?

For as long as suicide - especially amongst men - is such a significant killer, this message does not get boring, does not stop getting told and football is a great storyteller. These executions keep on going viral because the message still resonates with too many people. You see fewer teenage pregnancy campaigns now because teenage pregnancy is barely a societal issue anymore; we should all long for the day when football does not need to do campaigns about suicide. Until that day comes - we should celebrate football’s commitment to raising mental health awareness like a last-minute winner.

To ensure Stuntwatch doesn’t become ‘Purposewatch’, here are two campaigns that improve mental health via raising smiles…one on purpose, one less so.

Heineken doesn't just make beer, it pours it

Heineken doesn’t just make the beer; they also make the technology that makes the beer pour. SmartDispense technology helps bar owners pour the perfect pint. It’s important, but how do you make pouring less boring? Enter Ross Kemp.

As every millennial knows, Ross Kemp is the best documentary maker of all time and his ‘Behind Bars’ series was one of the most iconic hardman-does-hardman-things TV shows of our generation. In what can only be described as world-class punning, the show has been brought back…only rather than prison bars, it’s pub bars that Ross Kemp is getting behind.

The tongue-in-cheek documentary shows Ross Kemp go in search of the perfect pint, highlighting SmartDispense’s ability to do so. A bit silly? Yes. A bit funny? Also yes. The content is obviously aimed at a trade audience but has been well-received on all social channels. It’s good for Heineken but also a helpful reminder to creatives everywhere that B2B can be fun and doesn’t have to mean Be2Boring.

Live video feed between New York and Dublin goes tits up

Lastly, a public service announcement. NEVER trust the general public.

Luckily, no brands or clients were hurt in the making of this campaign, but an art project has learnt the hard way when it comes to giving the public nice things. The Portal by The Flatiron Nomad Partnership is essentially a live video feed connecting New York and Dublin.

There were some touching moments as people on opposite sides of the Atlantic waved at each other, blew kisses and shared jokes…but The Portal made the critical error of staying switched on after people had sampled a few too many Guinness.

Hand waving was replaced with breast and bum waving, mutual drug taking replaced joke making and worst of all, someone thought it would be funny to show the Twin Towers being struck.

Somewhat predictably, The Portal is now closed until the makers can boost security and make technological adjustments to filter out inappropriate content. It serves as a harsh lesson for creatives who enjoy more artistic executions that while beauty is always in the eye of the beholder…don’t forget that the beholders can sometimes be right arseholes.

This week's PR Stunt Watch was written by Greg Double, creative director at BCW. Originally published at

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