CAMH builds a tower of people to launch new brand platform

Who: Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, with Camp Jefferson for strategy and creative; Scouts Honour for production (directed by Brent Foster); Outsider Editorial, The Vanity and Alter Ego for post-production; OSO Audio for sound, and media by Jungle Media.

What: “No One Left Behind,” a new brand platform to help Canada’s largest mental health hospital reach an ambitious fundraising goal of $500 million. It comes at a time Canada is facing a mental health crisis.

When & Where: The first campaign on the platform is in market now, with TV (60 and 30 seconds), social, OOH and radio running across Ontario until May 31.

The numbers: CAMH needs new funding to respond to Canada’s worsening mental health crisis. More than 6.7 million Canadians struggle with mental illness, while 50% will have endured a mental illness by age 40, and more than 4,000 Canadians die by suicide every year. That’s the human cost. Mental illness is also the leading cause of disability in Canada, with 500,000 people missing work each week. It’s estimated to cost the economy $51 billion a year in lost time and productivity, and reductions in quality of life.

Why: CAMH is already considered a world-class institution for treating mental health, but it needs additional funding to grow, do more, conduct better research and offer better services.

“CAMH is kind of putting a stake in the ground here,” said Ian Barr, SVP and head of strategy at Camp Jefferson. “They’re saying they’re going to keep going because it’s a part of their DNA… They’re not going to give up until we live in a world where mental health is treated [the same] as physical health.”

The $500 million will be used in part to build a new state-of-the-art facility working on groundbreaking research to find new mental health treatments.

“We believe now is the time to go further than ever to support those facing mental illness,” said Sarah Chamberlin, CAMH Foundation’s CMO and VP of community giving and engagement, in a release introducing the new campaign. “Our work over the past 25 years has helped to bust stigma, raise awareness, and spark conversations about mental health. Now it’s time to go further.”

How: The 60-second anchor spot opens with people coming together in a cityscape under a dark, threatening sky. They pause briefly, and then start to grab hands and lift each other up, one on top of the other, to form a literal tower of humanity.

“We don’t believe in outsiders,” says the voiceover, a welcome to anyone who feels alienated by their mental illness. “Here we stand together,” she says. As the tower grows taller, individuals strain under the weight of the challenge, but are supported by those around them.

The visual is loosely inspired by the Catalan tradition of building human towers, or “castells,” but is a metaphor for the research centre CAMH is building. “We search for answers that don’t yet exist,” says the narrator. “And if we can’t find what we need, we build it.”

Eventually, as the sun starts to break through the clouds, a woman climbs to the top and is handed a giant spotlight. “It’s a beacon of hope,” said Barr. “A rallying signal for people to support the hospital that won’t give up until people living with mental illness get the treatments they deserve.”

The shoot: The entire ad was shot in studio on blue screen, with a mix of actors and special skills talent who could perform the stunt roles,” said associate creative director Dave Fontaine. “We built a rig that would allow them to climb into a tower and worked with a choreographer to make it feel as if they were climbing one another, rather than the rig.”

They then relied on their post-production partners to remove the rig and stitch the pieces together to fill in any gaps in the tower, he said. “Though we only had a limited amount of talent on set, we wanted it to feel like hundreds.”

Director Brent Foster worked with director of photography Kris Bonnell to plan out the skyline, as well as the progression of the lighting. “We wanted to create the feeling of going from a dark, solitary place and building, with the help of a community, toward a sense of hope,” said Fontaine.

And we quote: “I think the spot captures the attitude of who CAMH is in a really clear way, and how far they are willing to go do to things… They’re this hospital that’s just willing to go there. They defiantly run into the grittiest, darkest places that others shy away from… fighting for mental health equality with physical health.” — Ian Barr, SVP and head of strategy, Camp Jefferson

David Brown