Hill Holliday Spreads Happiness With 'Social Experiments' in Boston

New approach to suicide prevention

All advertising strives to sell happiness, implying that buying certain goods or services will make you feel better than you did before. Pitching happiness itself, striving to communicate the gravity of the concept and its importance in our daily lives, is a different matter entirely—and that's the metaphorical mission of Hill Holliday's pro-bono "Happier Boston" push for suicide-prevention group Samaritans Inc. In addition to a Web site and PSAs, the campaign is taking its message to the streets via "social experiments." These include cheering "fans" at railroad platforms to greet commuters and wish them a great day; surprise skyscraper elevator sing-alongs; and handing out citrus fruits emblazoned with the message, "Orange you happy?" Roberta Hurtig, executive director of the Samaritans, tells AdFreak that the campaign is designed to expand the conversation about suicide prevention and "focus attention beyond the sad and tragic connotations … to include the hope and happiness that is created when people make connections with one another." Is there concern that such stunts, though well-intentioned, could backfire by rubbing some people the wrong way? "No one who is suffering wants to be told to 'just smile,' " Hurtig says. "But our events are an invitation, not a command—the difference matters, and it's noticeable. A smile shared is contagious, and we've had very positive feedback." If it increases the group's exposure, that's all to the good. Only a heartless Grinch would frown.