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The inspiration behind Anglo American’s employee mental health campaign

Our IC and creative specialists share the inspiration - and challenges - behind the concept that powerfully captured the essence of mental health for Anglo American employees - all in the midst of a global pandemic.

“We want people to take off their masks and stop hiding the truth about their feelings.”

This is how our client summed up what they wanted their mental health campaign to achieve. It was a powerful image.

And we’re chuffed to have delivered a creative mental health campaign that packed the punch they were looking for: a series of dramatic yet sensitive films, all brought to life in record-timing – despite the fact the world was being rocked by one of the biggest health crises in more than 100 years!

It wasn’t without its challenges.

For starters, the project kicked off just days before the UK went into lockdown. The film studio was closed, the actors and the film crew couldn’t leave their homes and the creative team was still getting to grips with digital collaboration while homeschooling, dog sitting and isolating.

But we love a good challenge. And the creative energy that was sparked during our very first TTT (that’s ‘Team Thinking Time’ here at H&H) kept driving the project forward, from ideas on a flip chart to four impactful films that are now sparking mental health conversations across the globe.

Here the team share their take on the project, from the places they found inspiration to the canny collaboration and the savvy ways they overcame hurdles.

Jane, Employee Engagement Consultant and Team Lead

I was sitting at my desk with the client’s words going around and around in my head.

As someone who has always struggled with their mental health, being open about my feelings is not an easy thing to do. My mask often helps me hide the truth from myself – let alone anyone else.  

Jane's Anglo American mental health campaign inspiration

And then, as if my magic, the latest Creative Review issue – Truth & Lies – landed on my desk.

The brilliant cover, by Jimmy Turrell, showed two faces collaged into one: Trump and Kim Jong-un. It was a glorious jumble of ripped and textured layers.

And that was it. Suddenly I could see a way to peel away the façade and show the raw reality underneath: that must be what thoughts and feelings look like.

Ollie, Animator

Using really strong visual effects for this mental health campaign was key, but we also wanted to be respectful and considered. Finding the right balance was quite a challenge.

I looked for inspiration in films, music videos and other online mental health campaigns. As we explored different concepts, there were loads of messages flying around the team, such as, “Hey do you remember that song that went boop da booo oooh la and the video? What was it called?”.

Anglo American Mental Health Campaign, Ollie's creation

It was great to see how quickly we all adapted to the new ways of working during lockdown. We had to come up with creative ideas about how to actually make the videos, and every member of the team helped crack that remotely – from fathoming out how to create green screens in actors’ bedrooms, to coming up with a way to direct, record, collate and edit the footage when nobody could leave their own homes.

The scripts were powerful and carefully considered, and the actors did a great job.

I learnt tonnes of new editing and special effects skills, including how to track a person’s eyeball in After Effects so we could alter the highlight. Whilst a solution was found, it is still no mean feat! 

Catherine, Copywriter and IC Consultant

My inspiration started with Maya Angelou:

“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel”.

I wanted to make people feel uncomfortable – not only to grab their attention and make this mental health campaign really memorable, but also to give a sense of the discomfort people often feel, and hide, as a result of their mental health.

Catherine's Anglo American mental health campaign ideas

Together, we explored how to bring this unease to life – through words, images, illustrations, etc – without stigmatising mental health issues. It had to be dramatic but authentic; audacious and yet respectful.

I buried myself in blogs, films, features, and first-hand accounts to get a sense of what it felt like to experience, say, depression, addiction, anxiety, or stress. There’s such a variety of emotions, from painful silence to brutal self-talk.

These rich, first-person insights helped to create a series of scripts, with sound effects, that invited people to hear, see and feel ‘behind the mask’. 

Andrew, Lead Designer

We’re always collaborating at H&H; however I’d say this was the most collaborative project I’ve ever worked on. Kind of strange when you consider we were all working miles apart from each other!

I think it’s because the subject resonated with many of us, particularly during lockdown when the stability of the world as we knew it had been taken away from us. But also, we each had so many ideas to add to the mix.

Mental Health can be quite a sensitive topic. We were determined to give it the respect and attention it deserved.

We talked about the noises, the voices, the sounds that people might experience and how these layer together. My job was to take these ideas and visualize them.

I was really interested in the mask idea – how the internal (what people feel) is different to the external (what other people see). I explored a lot of different avenues until I was really happy with it, and once everything was put together – the sounds, the voices, the visuals and the messages – the result was pretty awesome.

Anglo American mental health campaign

Kelly, Account Manager

What was beautiful about this project is that as a team we all had such different ideas of what mental health might look or sound like, and during the TTT (Team Thinking Time!) we got to throw it all into the mix.

You know when you just get the perfect mix of everything?  The scripts, the sound effects, the powerful imagery. The flexible and talented actors. It all came together to create these raw, honest interpretations of what it’s like to struggle with your mental health. 

The videos are sharing such a powerful message. Hats off to the client for giving mental health the time and attention it deserves, and I would love to think that we’ve helped even one person.

Want to experience Anglo American’s employee mental health campaign videos for yourself? Check out the videos below.

H&H can help leverage your organisation’s internal communication to support your employees’ mental health and wellbeing.

Meet the author

Jane Halford

I come from a background in interior design, and I’m really interested in style, design and structure. As Head of Creative I put my heart into making sure our creative projects have a real edge, and that our designers are happy and producing their best work for our clients… even if it takes baking them ‘medals’ so they do their timesheets! I’ve been described as a ball of energy fuelled by coffee, and I’d say that’s pretty accurate! Give me a challenging project and I’ll find a way to breathe fresh, creative life into it.