Bell moves from awareness to action for “Let’s Talk” 2023

Who: Bell Canada, with LG2 for creative, Gorditos for production, Post-Moderne for post-production, BLVD for sound, and Circonflex for music.

What: “Let’s Change This,” the latest creative campaign for Bell’s annual “Let’s Talk Day” effort to help those in need of mental health support, though the focus this year shifts from awareness to action.

When & Where: The campaign began this past weekend, and will run through Let’s Talk Day on Jan. 25. Advertising is running online, on TV, out-of-home, radio and print, but there’s also a new evergreen website meant to provide information, resources and content year-round.

Why: The primary goal of the campaign remains unchanged for 2023: helping Canadians in need of mental health care. But Bell has introduced a fundamental change this year, redirecting its efforts from tackling stigma, changing attitudes and behaviours, to encouraging real action.

In the past, Bell donated five cents for posting, sharing and interacting online using the “#BellLetsTalk” hashtag. It is doing away with the five-cent donations, and will instead give $10 million—its largest single-year contribution—toward its longstanding goal of $155 million for mental health programs in Canada. Jan. 25 will be more focused on promoting the organizations that drive real change and encouraging people to learn about practical actions they can take to help those in need.

“As a country, we have made great progress in moving mental health forward, and changed attitudes and behaviours around mental illness, but despite these gains, we must all do more to address the mental health crisis in Canada,” said Mirko Bibic, president and CEO of Bell Canada and BCE, in a release.

How: The objective of the ad campaign was emotional storytelling based on real statistics. Three TV spots show the raw emotion of characters who have been hurt by, or are directly suffering from mental illness. In each case they speak directly to camera, sharing a troubling statistic about a lack of support for those suffering from mental illness before the spot ends with the “Let’s change this tagline.” The specific statistics referenced in the ads are:

  • More than 200 Canadians will attempt suicide every day; twelve will die;
  • 56% of people struggling in this country are not getting the help they need; and
  • One in four Canadians have been experiencing high levels of anxiety.

“It’s a huge creative challenge to find a fresh approach each year,” said Nicolas Dion, partner, and creative director at LG2, which has been creating the Let’s Talk campaigns for more than a decade. “[B]ut the ideas to push the conversation further and urge Canadians to take action come straight out of today’s reality and the changes we’re witnessing. The result this year was the simple, evocative line ‘Let’s change this,’ combined with powerful messages to call for more action on the situation.”

Additional content spotlighting mental health organizations across the country will be released Jan. 25, but that content is being produced by Bell Media.

The website: The new version of the website is intended to inspire but—underscoring the new focus for Let’s Talk—also to help people take action by providing access to tools and resources. “Stories and other content gathered from coast to coast highlight the initiative’s positive impact and the changes that have been achieved at the community level,” said Marc-André Dandurand, creative director at LG2, in the release. “The website turns the initiative from a one-day event into a constant part of Canadians’ everyday lives.”

Reacting to the critics? The “Lets Talk” campaign has drawn fire from critics who complain the corporation only cares about bottom line profits and not mental health, with some suggesting that the money-raising mechanism of five cents for each “#BellLetsTalk” share was as much about spreading the Bell brand as trying to help those in need of mental health.

Critics found new fuel this year when the Bell-owned CTV network decided to part ways with long-time national news anchor Lisa LaFlamme, leading to new claims that CTV is itself a toxic and unhealthy workplace.

Last year, Bell announced new unlimited mental health benefit coverage for Bell employees and, according to Bell spokesperson Jacqueline Michelis, “employees consistently rank Bell’s mental health commitment as the best part of the workplace in the formal team surveys.”

She also told The Message that all people leaders at Bell undergo “extensive management and coaching training, including the industry’s most comprehensive mental health training in line with the national Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace standard.”

More than 14,000 leaders have taken the training so far, she said. “Anyone at Bell who may be feeling distressed or concerned has options to reach out to their managers—all of whom go through mandatory mental health training—but also to human resources or union reps, or report concerns confidentially to an independent third-party company.”

And we quote: “Together with our partners and organizations all around the country, we have helped increase awareness about mental illness and addiction and Bell Let’s Talk is proud to invest in these organizations all year round. But bold action is needed more than ever. Too many Canadians are still struggling with mental health and addiction issues and not getting the care they need. Let’s change this.” —Mary Deacon, chair, Bell Let’s Talk

David Brown