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Suicide is a huge problem.
Every 40 seconds someone in the world takes their own life.
It is the largest cause of death for men under 501.
And in Ireland, 4 in 5 people who die by suicide are men.
Discussing problems is not part of Irish culture for many men. We often tragically fail to reach out and ask for help when we need it most. Social isolation as a result of Covid-19 has compounded this.
In 2020, during the pandemic, Movember conducted research on men’s mental health and discovered that 33% of men said they felt more isolated, with nearly 50% of them saying no one has checked to nd out how they are coping. Men’s mental health was suffering, they were hungry for connection, yet didn’t know how to talk about it.
Many studies have concluded that art can make an important contribution to positive mental health. Its ‘healing power’ lies in its capacity to tell human stories, stir emotions, inspire empathy and navigate complex situations.
So, if art has the power to communicate the things we don’t know how to say, could we use its powerful undertone to empower men to break free from legacy burdens and start discussing their feelings?
Further inspiration from a quote by Eileen Miller, “Art can permeate the very deepest parts of us, where no words exist,” combined with the definition of a ‘conversation piece’ – art whose unusual quality makes it a conversation starter in social settings – led us to our big idea.
In the circumstances, a standard advertising campaign wasn’t going to cut it. What could we lean into to generate a volume of earned media, amplify our message and get it out there? We researched the pulling power of cultural icons to provoke the public’s interest. Some of Ireland’s most influential artists, icons and musicians volunteered to have a conversation about their own experiences of mental health and, working in pairs, created digital outdoor artworks inspired by it.
Getting the public’s attention demanded we launch with something spectacular, something that had never been done before. We launched ‘Conversation Piece’ with ‘Together We Stand’, a massive digital outdoor projection onto the iconic Poolbeg Chimneys, a famous landmark on the skyline of Ireland’s capital.
They were the perfect canvas to launch this simple but supportive message. They have stood together for the last 50 years, even surviving a planned demolition.
The launch was followed by seven collaborations with fourteen highly respected Irish artists and cultural icons that included Sebastian Barry, Vivienne Roche, Gavin Friday, Domino Whisker , Aches, Mund and Tiny Ark.
In a year when everyone was ‘at home’ and OOH collapsed due to lack of footfall, it felt counter-intuitive to develop an ‘out of home’ digital campaign. But the hauntingly empty streets of the City provided the perfect metaphor to display the work. This, combined with the sense of isolation, melancholy, and even hope in each artist’s piece, reflected what many people themselves were also going through.
Short videos featuring powerful music, meaningful lyrics and personal stories from our artists accompanied each piece. Subsequent press interviews gave the artists an opportunity to share their own experiences and encourage others to share theirs. In The Irish Times, Irish Laureate Sebastian Barry referenced his own mental health issues;
“It interests me now [that] it never occurred to me to lift the phone and say, ‘Can you help me?’. [With depression] all the beauties of the world, even drinking coffee with your spouse, are not available to you anymore. The slow replacement of those things can only happen through some form of dialogue, some form of conversation.”
The iconic Samuel Beckett Bridge proved a fitting, final canvas. Set in the very heart of Dublin city, street artist Maser programmed poignant lyrics from Damian Dempsey’s back catalogue and we broadcast them from the network of LED’s installed into the bridge itself. ‘Meet Me At The Bridge’ spanned the river Liffey, joining the two sides of the city. Set against Damian’s stirring music, this was a final metaphor to encourage people to meet half-way, and recognise that a conversation takes two people.
33% of men felt more isolated during the pandemic and nearly 50% said no one had asked how they were coping. We wanted to reach 1.625m of them. Although we don’t know exactly how many of these men ‘Conversation Piece’ reached, by delivering a nationwide reach of 4.58m, including targeted reach in social, we should have reached a large proportion of those suffering in these pockets of isolation.
And where others stuck to the more traditional Movember fundraising model, our pivot outperformed every other European market and we managed to double donations, which will help fund vital men’s health initiatives and research for the remainder of the pandemic.
Pandemic isolation risked intensifying male suicides in Ireland. Conversations save lives but starting them is the challenge.
We shed light on the importance of social connections and conversation by lighting up iconic Dublin landmarks with messages of solidarity.
The series featured collaborations with artists and designers such as Sebastian Barry, Vivienne Roche, Gavin Friday, Maser, Damien Dempsey, Domino Whisker, Aches, Mundy and Tiny Ark.
The campaign delivered reach of 4.5M, delivering 183,000 engagements, sparking many life-saving conversations and doubling annual donations to €4.9m.