Zoom Fatigue Got You Down? TBWA\London Created Audio Excuses to Help You Step Away

The campaign is a partnership with The Book of Man in time for World Mental Health Day

While no one should have to make an excuse to tend to their mental health, the campaign acknowledges that sometimes its the only way to get that much-needed break. TBWA\London
Headshot of Kathryn Lundstrom

With a new website full of chaotic audio clips of sirens, puking cats and rumbling stomachs, agency TBWA\London and men’s media platform The Book of Man want to help folks take better care of themselves during this stressful time—by helping them bail on video calls.

Months into this pandemic, most of us can relate to that quintessential Covid-19-era term: Zoom fatigue. When stress-free, in-person interactions are so hard to come by, the constant videoconferencing starts to feel like a cheap, cruel replacement for any sense of human closeness.

For all of us—especially those struggling with mental illness—taking that sense of exhaustion seriously is an important part of self care these days. It serves as a cue to take a walk, get some fresh air or just step away from the screens for a bit.

In an ideal world, that’s all anyone would have to say to take a quick break—but The Book of Man and TBWA\London acknowledge in a new campaign that that’s not always the case. Sometimes, you need an excuse.

With a catalog of diversions available just in time for World Mental Health Day tomorrow, the “Sound the Excuse” campaign has over a dozen different sound effects to create the space you need to step away for a moment, all accessible for free on the campaign website. From a crying baby or smoke alarm to a pigeon flying in through the window or a cattle stampede, the excuses range from quotidian to outlandish. If nothing else, they’ll at least invoke a laugh. The website refers users to The Book of Man, where readers can find tips for managing stress and anxiety while working from home.

‘Sound the Excuse’ aims to open up conversation around stress and anxiety related to working from home during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The minute-long spot, available on YouTube and The Book of Man, shows overwhelmed video conference attendees use the audio content to drop out of meetings. Even the more unlikely excuses (wasp invasion, indigestion, helicopter landing) elicit a feeling of amused solidarity as the pandemic stretches on.

An out-of-home component is also part of the project, featuring colorful illustrations by Alejandro Parrilla Galan that depict each of the excuses available on the Sound the Excuse website. The posters direct folks struggling with stress and anxiety related to working from home to the campaign’s landing page.

The posters feature Alejandro Parrilla Galan’s colorful illustrations for the audio diversions.

“More than ever, men and the people around them are looking for inspiration of how to adapt and for many its the first time they are openly discussing the issues they are facing,” said The Book of Man co-founder Mark Sandford in a statement.

The campaign sends the message that “it’s ok to not be ok,” Sandford added. “By addressing the issue of video call fatigue head on we hope this will shine a brighter light on the wider challenges of this new way of working.”

TBWA\Worldwide, the London agency’s international counterpart, was Adweek’s Global Agency of the Year in 2008 and 2018.


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@klundster kathryn.lundstrom@adweek.com Kathryn Lundstrom is Adweek's breaking news reporter based in Austin.
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