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Special Project

Special Project
From the 3rd Annual Shorty Social Good Awards

Seize the Awkward

Gold Honor in Influencer & Celebrity


Suicide is the second leading cause of death amongst young adults and for every youth suicide, it is estimated that 100 – 200 attempts are made.

Young adulthood is a critical time in a person's life when they may be experiencing greater stress from life changes like leaving high school, moving from home and starting college. It's also a time when mental health issues frequently emerge. But despite effective treatment options, there are often long delays between the first appearance of symptoms and when people go to receive counseling or treatment. 46% of young adults aged 18-25 with serious mental illness did not receive counseling or treatment.

The good news is that we know that 76% of young adults will turn to a peer in a time of crisis for support. That means the friends of those struggling can be incredibly influential in helping them get the help they need. This generation is ready to crack open the cultural conversation about mental health, but they're missing the language and resources to do it. To address this, the Ad Council, the Jed Foundation (JED) and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) launched Seize the Awkward, a national public service campaign designed to encourage and empower 16- to 24-year-olds to reach out to a friend who may be struggling with their mental health.

Strategy and Execution

In conversations with many young adults, we learned that friendships are everything to teens. When they open up and are vulnerable with each other, it creates a powerful new space of trust between them that doesn't just lead to important mental health conversations, but that also strengthens their friendships. This powerful insight led our strategy. It's about friendships and giving young people a way to change the culture of mental health one friendship at a time. Ultimately, this culminated in the creative idea: Seize the Awkward – a campaign aimed at transforming an awkward moment from something we avoid into the perfect opportunity to reach out and ask a friend how they're doing.

Seize the Awkward aims to encourage young adults to create a safe space for their friends to open about mental health and to prepare them for how to support a friend in need. The campaign uses an upbeat tone to personify an awkward silence that can happen between friends before a conversation about mental health. In taking a lighter, more upstream approach, Seize the Awkward hopes to make the content more relatable and approachable to the target audience of 16- to 24-year-olds.

Given how incredibly influential digital talent is to our target audience, a significant component of the campaign is a series of videos from top talent from YouTube and other social channels. Talent including Hannah Hart, Markiplier, Liza Koshy, Tyler Posey, Shannon Beveridge, Remi Cruz and Tyler Oakley were featured in a special anthem spot and individual videos about their personal experience with mental health issues – either about their own struggles with mental health and how friends supported them or how they have supported a friend through a difficult time. With talent opening up first and sharing their own mental health stories, we hoped to destigmatize the issue and encourage viewers to reach out their friends to start their own conversations.


Since launching on January 17th, 2018, the campaign has received strong media support across social and digital. Specifically, the campaign videos have garnered more than 7.5 million views, 500k likes and 9k shares. The campaign hashtag has been used more than 16k times, with more than 19.3k mentions of the campaign overall on social.

Of the total video views, more than 3.8 million come from the talent videos. The talent video series has a total potential reach of 44.8 million, 500k engagements and an estimated value of $1.4 million.

Overall, the campaign has seen more than 87k sessions to the website where people can find additional resources.


Video for Seize the Awkward

Entrant Company / Organization Name

Ad Council, Droga5, Jed Foundation, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Seize the Awkward


Entry Credits