Today, mental health continues to impact millions of adolescents. Half of lifetime mental illness begins before age 14, but many youth have yet to receive help and support. Specifically, youth of color endure trauma related to racism and lack of access to mental health support. To help improve mental health outcomes among middle schoolers, we must educate and engage parents and caregivers and provide tools that will allow them to proactively and regularly check in with their children.
Following the success of the Ad Council’s original Sound It Out campaign, which aimed to help caregivers bridge conversations about emotional well-being with their middle schoolers, Ad Council partnered with Amazon Ads and Amazon's Brand Innovation Lab. Together we created a tool to help parents start conversations through music. The activation allows for middle schoolers and parents to have conversations about difficult topics in a new way.
Our collaboration with Amazon Ads Brand Innovation Lab had one main goal: to create an immersive tool that tapped audience behavior patterns and help to make it easier for parents to connect with their children on topics like emotional well-being and mental health via sending music (Amazon Music, Alexa). This digital experience allows for middle schoolers and their parents and/or caregivers to expand their conversations around mental health and wellbeing beyond the typical “I’m fine.” barrier. This newly-launched tool can allow for parents to type in an intricate human emotion and be prompted with curated songs they can share with their middle schooler via Alexa.
As a teen or the caregiver of a teen, articulating and understanding emotions can feel impossible at times. After the success of Sound It Out’s initial campaign, Ad Council knew there were ways to continue to innovate and amplify the message – and Amazon’s Alexa was the perfect avenue to marry our campaign objective and use a new tool in a way that's helpful to start conversations.
Based on a 2023 report from the CDC, over 40% of high school students experience feelings of sadness or hopelessness. Moreover, we recognized the need to offer this first-of-its-kind digital experience in both English and Spanish in order to reach both English speaking and Hispanic communities. Music is a powerful tool for communication, and we saw an opportunity to engage families through combining audio streaming, conversations on mental health, and the power of music to create a bilingual digital experience that resonated across our target audience.
During the creative ideation process, we encountered a challenge in dealing with the sensitivity surrounding mental health issues. Our foremost concern was to strike the appropriate emotional tone in all of the assets we produced while remaining sensitive to the subject matter. We had to find a way to effectively convey emotions without causing any discomfort to our audience — both the middle schoolers and their caregivers. Additionally, as we were introducing an application and use of technology, utilizing Alexa, we encountered certain obstacles. We had to ensure that our audience was informed about how to use Alexa, and the app, without diverting their attention from the main messaging related to mental health. To address these challenges, we implemented a multi-faceted approach, incorporating various assets and leveraging the Sound It Out website. This allowed us to effectively communicate the appropriate emotional tone when discussing mental health issues and providing clear instructions on utilizing Alexa and the app for the purpose of the activation. The final outcome received positive feedback from audiences, achieving our objective of bridging conversations between caregivers and middle schoolers and fostering a deeper understanding of mental health issues.
The process of sharing songs via Amazon Music is simple. Parents can visit the custom bilingual landing page on Amazon's website and type in an emotion, ranging from “smoldering,” to “apathetic,” or “frightened.” The website tool takes that emotion and curates a list of songs from the Amazon Music library. It creates a playlist with unique songs that help describe and understand the emotion. Parents can then ask Alexa — to “share this song with [name].” The teen can access this song via any of the family’s Alexa-enabled devices and/or the Alexa mobile app with an eligible music service to listen to it immediately and can also respond by sharing additional songs.
To amplify this new tool and to ensure we were resonating with a diverse audience, we partnered with influential musicians including Ambar Lucid, Nico Craig, JJ Hairston, and Carla Morrison. This allowed us to enable more families to form connections through music in both English and Spanish. To promote the bilingual feature, the award winning duo Novemba directed a short film titled, Muchas Flores, which displays how music connects a struggling teen and her mother.
Within the first week of launching the “When You Can’t Say It, Play It” experience ( April 13), the campaign received nearly 100 million impressions with 30,000 songs shared. Audiences were interested in this new Amazon feature and sharing with friends and family. Additionally, the campaign video elicited feedback from parents who watched the video and felt a strong connection to the film's story, finding it highly relatable and resonating with the content discussed. The campaign saw success in other ways as well:
This innovative idea has been picked up in news outlets across the US. Press coverage supported the campaign across multiple industry and mainstream publications: