Why Norwich City FC’s suicide prevention campaign is so powerful
4 minute read
Aaron Garside explains what makes Norwich City’s mental health advert a winner.
“What I love about this ad is its simplicity, a single shot set-up focusing on the interaction between two people across the season.”
To mark Mental Health Day 2023, Norwich City and the Samaritans released a powerful new ad that encourages people to check in on one another. In a single week, the ad has amassed 53.3 million views and has been called “incredibly powerful” by the governing body of European football, UEFA. So, what makes it so moving, and what does it tell us about good advertising?
First, a quick recap. The ad opens on a sunny day in the Norwich stands, in a sea of yellow, with the camera pointed intimately at two local fans as they attend matches. One of the men is more reserved while his friend is enthusiastic about their team.
“What I love about this ad is its simplicity, a single shot set-up focusing on the interaction between two people across the season,” says Aaron Garside, Head of Content at Hunterlodge. “As a viewer you quickly get a sense of their relationship and become transfixed by their interactions. You want to find out where the story is heading.”
As the ad ends, after many games, the screen goes dark, and a message appears: “At times, it can be obvious when someone is struggling to cope, but sometimes the signs are harder to spot.” Then stalls reappear with the empty seats. The reserved man takes his seat, alone, and places a scarf where his friend should be. The implication is that his friend, despite his positivity, has committed suicide. His friend looks down the camera as the hashtag #YouAreNotAlone appears, followed by contact details for the Samaritans.
So, what makes this ad so effective? For Aaron, it’s that the ad delivers a powerful message with both simplicity and creativity—two qualities he believes make for good advertising.
“I love the fact that it’s so simple in its set-up,” Aaron says. ‘The focus is always on the two men; you never see anyone else’s faces clearly, if at all. The camera angle never changes. It’s a routine, much like the men’s relationship. You’re drawn into their world without any distractions or tricks. The body language and facial expressions of both men are important, and as a viewer, you immediately make up your mind about what’s going to happen because it plays into and on those social rules, we all have drummed into us from the moment we are born. For me, this is what makes the final scene so thought-provoking and effective.”
Subverting expectations is something we regularly see in storytelling across literature, film, but especially in advertising, Aaron says. Audiences love a surprise, even when we see it coming, either becoming the ‘I told you so’ moment or the ‘oh my god’ moment. These turn into watercooler moments, encouraging audiences to do the advertiser’s job for them.
“When watching this ad and seeing the relationship and story develop, you sense that it’s the quiet, unemotional guy who is struggling and the animated chatty guy must be fine as he seems to be having a ball. But that’s the message: just because someone seems fine, it doesn’t mean they are, and in this case, with devastating consequences.”
Norwich FC reveals in the supporting ads that 125 people die by suicide each week in the UK, or around 18 people per day, one every 90 minutes—the length of a football match. Worldwide, more than 700,000 people take their own life each year, equating to one person every 40 seconds. And so, we’re seeing mental health brought to the limelight across all forms of media—in 2023, a similar campaign entitled The Last Photo captured attention with the following tagline: Suicidal doesn’t always look suicidal.
“Mental health is something that affects everyone in some shape or form, and as a society, we have become much more empathetic and aware of it both in ourselves and in others,” Aaron says. “It is so important that we continue to empower people, especially those from certain demographics and generations who still suffer from outdated stigmas.”
So, Aaron and the team at Hunterlodge think this is a great example of content, advertising and storytelling—well done Norwich FC and the marketing team. For us, it’s a reminder that advertising is not just there to sell things. It also serves the greater good, whether that be personal growth, accomplishments, or for society. It is about inciting change, and this has been masterfully executed in a fine campaign from Norwich and the Samaritans.
If you are going through a tough time, Samaritans are always there to listen 24 hours a day on 116 123.
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