Kids Help Phone campaign depicts the grown-up problems faced by many children

Who: Kids Help Phone, with McCann for strategy and creative, Epitaph for media.

What: “Grown-up Problems,” an awareness and fundraising ad campaign for the non-profit explaining to viewers that many kids need help dealing with some very serious problems.

When & Where: The campaign is live now, running on national broadcast, YouTube and other social platforms (both paid and donated inventory).

Why: Demand for the non-profit’s services have skyrocketed during the pandemic, from 1.9 million contacts across Kids Help Phone’s services in 2019, to 4.6 million last year, and more than 3.76 million already this year.

“The pandemic has accelerated the mental health crisis in Canada with young people needing support now more than ever,” said Katherine Hay, president and CEO of Kids Help Phone, in a release.

Kids Help Phone recently chose McCann as its creative and strategic agency, and a new brand identity and brand platform are in the works. But this first ad campaign from the agency reminds viewers that while we make think of kids as having relatively small problems, many—particularly those in need of Kids Help Phone—are dealing with adult-size problems.

How: The video ads star well-known Canadian actors Malin Åkerman, Tatiana Maslany, and Anne Dorval performing powerful monologues to camera about emotional and mental anguish—dealing with the death of a brother, coming out, and anxiety—before revealing they are actually recreating real calls or outreach to Kids Help Phone from kids as young as 10.

A child voiceover explains that grief, depression and anxiety aren’t just for grown-ups, and millions of kids reach out to Kids Help Phone each year, with a super that directs viewers to to find out why.

“There is something fascinating, and also desperately sad, about the idea that when these problems relate to young people in Canada they are simultaneously more shocking and more likely to be ignored,” said AJ Jones, McCann’s chief strategy officer. “In teasing apart the issues and the people we can begin to create a world in which young people’s issues are taken more seriously and the role of Kids Help Phone is more widely appreciated.”

The ads were directed by Jamie and Jason Neese, known for their work on the Emmy-nominated Netflix series The Umbrella Academy, UnReal and Dear White People,

And we quote: “By showing adults that young people also struggle with ‘adult sized’ problems, we hope to make the invisible impacts of their struggle more visible to raise awareness of essential services like Kids Help Phone.” —Katherine Hay, president and CEO of Kids Help Phone

David Brown