Embracing an Awkward Moment Can Save a Life, Say Droga5’s Suicide Prevention Ads

A fun yet powerful campaign for the Ad Council

The Ad Council

An awkward silence among friends isn’t just a moment to gloss past. It could be an opportunity to save the life of someone you care about, says a new PSA.

It’s part of a lighthearted but powerful new campaign aimed at helping preventing suicides—and promoting mental health—among teens and young adults. Titled “Seize the Awkward,” the platform is a sweeping effort from The Ad Council, The Jed Foundation, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and Droga5.

In the centerpiece 1:20 spot, two teenage girls sit on a couch, shuffling. A clock ticks in the background. One seems about to say something, but stops after struggling.

A man in a brown turtleneck, played by Broadway star Gideon Glick, pops up from out of the cushions between them. “Awkward,” he says, beaming a smile, before proceeding to insert himself into a half dozen other private but off-kilter moments—between a couple in bed, and two football players in the bathroom, and two buddies in a hot tub, and two people in the midst of an unsuccessful prom invitation.

The point of the montage: These are all chances for young folks to check in with their pals and lovers, to make sure that they’re doing OK, and that whatever precipitated the awkward silence isn’t part of a bigger, deeper problem. The actors are happy to demonstrate some ways into what might be a difficult conversation.

Glick, awkwardness personified, is equally pleased to explain why it matters. “Starting the conversation now could stop something much worse from happening later on,” he says.

Additional videos offer more specific pointers—on how to start the conversation (“Just Ask”), how to continue it (“Just Listen”), and how to know if you should reach out in the first place (“The Signs”).

In a further, deeper series of clips, young celebrities including Tyler Posey of MTV’s Teen Wolf, YouTuber Remi Cruz, Liza Koshy of Hulu’s Freakish and Hannah Hart of My Drunk Kitchen, all open up about their own personal experiences with depression and anxiety, as well as how they and their friends help each other navigate their darker moments. (Other personalities featured in the series include Markiplier, Meredith Foster, Orion Carloto, Shannon Beveridge and Tyler Oakley.)

Aimed at audiences aged 16-24, the campaign is receiving support from media partners including BuzzFeed, Upworthy, Facebook, Reddit and YouTube, as well as textbook rental company Chegg, outdoor ad firm Colossal Media, and story-sharing platform Wattpad.

IPG media agency Initiative and NFL franchise the Jacksonville Jaguars are also participating. Artists including Baron Von Fancy, Jeremyville, Saša Ostoja, Iain Burke and Franz Lang have also created works around the campaign theme, “Seize the Awkward,” that will appear on posters on college campuses and on social media.

A dedicated website, meanwhile, acts as a hub for the campaign, walking viewers through the videos and offering illustrations on the same topics—when and how to approach friends—as well as how to go about bringing in extra help from, say, a parent or teacher, and what to do in an emergency (call 911) or crisis (call the 1-800-273-8255, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline).

The campaign’s creators emphasize its focus on providing young people with the tools and language to take action in such critical moments, and to open lines of communication around what remains a largely stigmatized subject. While it may be a lot to ask of teens to step out of themselves long enough to handle such scenarios with the necessary care, the videos—especially the celebrity confessionals—are packed with useful anecdotes and insights for anyone willing and able to listen.

In fact, they’re well worth watching and internalizing at any age as a lesson in empathy. To be fair, there are plenty of people 25 and up who could use one, too.

Ad Council :: Seize The Awkward
Seize The Awkward :: Integrated Credits List
Client Ad Council
Campaign Seize The Awkward
Launch Date January 17, 2017
Agency Droga5 NY
Creative Chairman David Droga
Chief Creative Officer Ted Royer
Executive Creative Director Kevin Brady
Group Creative Director Justin Ruben
Creative Director Will Lowe
Creative Director Victor Monclus Gonzalez
Associate Creative Director Lisa Fedyszyn
Associate Creative Director Jonathan McMahon
Senior Copywriter Mietta McFarlane
Senior Art Director Luke Chard
Copywriter Sergio Alonso
Senior Art Director Camilo De Galofre
Creative Technologist Phil Pastore
Design Director Michael Kleinman
Senior Designer Jaymes Barone
Chief Creation Officer Sally-Ann Dale
Co-Directors of Film Production Jesse Brihn, Bryan Litman
Producer, Film Brandon Chen
Associate Producer, Film Caroline Vassiliades
Music Supervisor Mike Ladman
Director of Business Affairs Jocelyn Howard
Business Affairs Manager Abigail Press
Counsel Sarah Fox
Associate Counsel Erica Palaia
Co-Directors of Interactive Production Justin Durazzo, Tasha Cronin
Producer, Interactive Alex Smith
Director of Art Production Cliff Lewis
Senior Art Producer Chelsea Gold
Director of Print Services Rob Lugo
Graphics Studio Manager Virginia Vargas
Quality Control Manager Lisa Bishai
Producer, Print Rose Mahan
Global Chief Strategy Officer Jonny Bauer
Co-Head of Strategy Harry Roman-Torres
Strategy Director Jennifer Lange
Senior Strategist Emily Mulvey
Head of Communications Strategy Colleen Leddy
Senior Communications Strategist Kevin Wilkerson
Executive Group Director Brett Edgar
Group Account Director Lauren LaValle
Account Director Celeste Pulman
Account Manager Rosalie Bonner
Account Manager Yardley Hansen
Project Manager Kaki White
Production Company Anonymous Content + OPC
Director Max Sherman
DOP Chris Mably
Head of Production Kerry Haynie, Anonymous Content
Executive Producer Gina Zapata, Anonymous Content
Executive Producer Lori Stonebraker, Anonymous Content
Executive Producer Harland Weiss, OPC
Executive Producer Donovan Boden, OPC
Producer Ian Webb
Managing Director Eric Stern, Anonymous Content
Editorial Rock Paper Scissors
Editor Dan de Winter
Assistant Editor Michael Shugarman, Joseph Tuzzolino
Executive Producer Eve Kornblum
Producer Julianne Cort
Post Production The Mill
Executive Producer Thomas Gibson
Associate Producer Sophie Mitchell
2D Lead Nicky Picardo
2D Artist Krissy Nordella
Design Animator Jeffrey Buoncristiano
Music/Mix Human/Post Human
Composer Gordon Minette
Creative Lead Andy Bloch
Mixer Sloan Alexander
Producer Craig Caniglia
Sound Design Formosa Group
Supervising Sound Editor Per Hallberg
Sound Designer Sound Designer
1st Assistant Sound Editor Philip D. Morrill
Interactive Production Company Haus
President Jeremy Moss
Head of Production Claudine Nichols
Director of Technology Steve Scavo
Lead Developer Claus Wahlers
Developer J Scott Smith
Senior Producer Kiley Story
Creative Director Kyle Petersen
Designer Vanessa Brown
Artist Patrick Hruby
Artist Abbey Lossing
Artist Mel Cerri
Artist Stina Persson
Artist Sam Dunn
Artist Rob Flowers
Artist Marta Cerda
Artist Dave Homer
Artist Ornamental Conifer
Artist Marina Esmeraldo
Artist Partners in Crime Studio
Artist Geo Law
Artist John Devolle
Artist Conrad Garner
Artist Pablo Declan
Artist Mike Perry
Artist Jon Burgerman
Artist Martina Paukova
Artist Lauren Hom
Artist Juan Carlos “JC” Pagan
Artist Iain Burke
Artist Rudi de Wet
Artist Léna Fradier aka Mačka
Artist Tommy Doyle
Artist Ellen Porteus
Artist Carly Larsson
Artist Angela Ho
Artist James Gulliver Hancock
Artist João Neves
Artist Eric Nyquist
Artist Simon Ålander
Artist Tim Singleton
Artist Baron Von Fancy
Artist Victor Bregante
Artist Kenzo Minami
Artist Cliff Van Thillo
Artist Saša Ostoja
Artist Nancy Liang
Artist Jeffrey Fulvimari
Artist Sean Tulgetske
Artist Chris Long
Artist Franz Lang
Artist Micah Cohen
Artist LULU*
Artist Rosemary Kathryn
Artist Joseph Alessio
Artist Anna Hrachovec
Artist Marcus Oakley
Artist Jeremyville
Artist Tina Berning
Artist Julia Walck
Artist Jess Rotter
Artist Adrian Clifford
Artist Meaghan Way
Artist Jill De Haan
Artist David J Weissberg
Artist Rep Friend + Johnson
Artist Rep Closer&Closer
Artist Rep KOKO Art Agency
Artist Rep Blink Art
Artist Rep Art & Motion
Artist Rep Bernstein & Andriulli
Artist Rep Snyder New York
Artist Rep Agency Rush
Artist Rep The Garden Party
Artist Rep Agent Pekka
Artist Rep Satellite Office
Artist Rep Sunday Afternoon
Artist Rep Jacky Winter
Artist Rep Good Illustration Ltd
Artist Rep Jigisha Bouverat Collective
Artist Rep Unit
School Frank Anselmo and Students at SVA

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@GabrielBeltrone gabriel.beltrone@gmail.com Gabriel Beltrone is a frequent contributor to Adweek.