Recipe’s Graeme Bowman and Mike Plumridge on their impactful use of the social media platform to reveal rugby star’s real feelings in a campaign for CALM
On International Men’s Day 2020, CALM, a charity leading a movement against suicide and living miserably, launched a new campaign starring rugby legend Joe Marler. Created by Recipe, the film was a first of its kind YouTube video that made use of the platform’s timeline preview feature to reveal a hidden message. This clever use of the social media platform, helps to highlight the way in which people, especially men, often hide how they are truly feeling.
In an interview with LBB, Graeme Bowman and Mike Plumridge, the creatives behind the campaign, talk through their lightbulb moment and how they approached such a hard-hitting topic.
LBB> What were your initial thoughts and ideas when the brief came in and how did you eventually land upon the incredibly clever creative twist?
Graeme Bowman> There’s a real stigma around talking about mental health amongst men. Unfortunately, it’s just seen as ‘unmanly’. In the UK, 75% of all suicides are men, so CALM suggested doing something on International Men’s Day that would get men talking about their mental health. We knew that for such a limited budget, we needed to do something that people hadn’t seen before to make a real splash. We wanted to arm men with something cool that they’d feel comfortable sharing with their friends.
LBB> Had you ever seen anything like this done before on other platforms? Where did you gather inspiration from?
Graeme> We’d never seen anything like this before and the more people we shared the idea with, the more I kept expecting that someone would burst our bubble and tell us it had been done. Luckily, that never happened!
Mike Plumridge> A YouTube video was shared among the creative department and we noticed that the thumbnail preview didn’t quite match the video when you scrolled through the timeline. It was quite a random discovery, but it got us talking about a way to use this functionality in a unique way. So after a few test videos/uploads, we’d figured out how YouTube generates their thumbnails. At the time, we didn’t really know what to do with it, when suddenly it clicked. There are often two sides to us as people: the way we present ourselves, and the way we feel. This technique allowed us to illustrate that in a really novel way.
LBB> As the reason for this campaign illustrates, many men still don’t feel comfortable speaking about difficult emotions. How did you tackle the challenge of engaging this audience to truly listen and change their minds?
Mike> Joe Marler has been open about his mental health struggles publicly for years, so in a lot of ways he did the heavy lifting for us. I think one of the reasons it worked so well was because his ongoing openness about mental health issues is helping to redefine what it means to be ‘manly’. It should be okay to be vulnerable, especially with your mates, and even if you’re a rugby player.
LBB> What were some of the other challenges you needed to overcome with the execution of this project?
Graeme> Writing the script was tricky because we basically had two scripts: the one that is spoken and the one that is read. And they needed to fit together seamlessly. In order to make sure everything worked, Mike and I did dozens of test recordings of ourselves.
LBB> When it came to this script, how closely did you collaborate with Joe Marler to achieve the final edit?
Graeme> We listened a lot to Joe talking publicly about both mental health and rugby, and that guided our scripts. It was very powerful and it made it clear that he would be the right person to convey this message. The spoken script had to sound like a genuine post-match interview and the hidden message had to sound sincere, and once we had figured it out there was almost no wriggle room for changes. One misplaced word would break the whole script.
LBB> Did it make you reflect back over your own emotions at all?
Graeme> For sure. It made me conscious that I should be checking in with all my friends and family more often and to be honest about the way I’m feeling.
LBB> Did you shoot this remotely or on set? What was that experience like with such a hard-hitting subject matter?
Graeme> We shot it at The Stoop (Harlequins’ home ground) after Joe had finished training. Although the subject is hard-hitting, early on the day of the shoot it was all focused on mirroring the actual pregame interviews, which needed to be much more relaxed and off the cuff. But when we did move towards the CTA end of the ad, the tone shifted with the weight of the subject matter.
LBB> And what sort of talent did you have to reach out to and work with at this stage? What did they bring to the mix?
Graeme> Our crew was very small - partly due to Covid, partly due to budget. We drafted in a talented DOP to help us get the right look but other than that, it was four of us from the agency (in-house director, producer, production assistant, and copywriter) and Joe. James, the producer, did a cracking job holding onto a pole which was making an annoying creaking sound in the wind.
LBB> Were there any novel technologies or creative risks that you had to play with or design around and, if so, how did you navigate that?
Graeme> The main thing we had to worry about was Joe saying the right words at the right time. In theory, he had to say one ‘key word’ every second. The edit allowed us a bit of wiggle room but we also recorded the script ourselves with the correct timings and sent it to Joe beforehand, which he listened to and tried to memorise. He actually recognised my voice when we met in person which was pretty funny.
Mike> The idea dictated the art direction. The text had to be big and bold so that even in a small preview window it would be easily read, especially on mobile. This whole campaign is about being open with your mates, so in the interest of honesty, we stripped back any animation or design flourishes to keep things as clean and honest as possible.
LBB> How did you feel when you saw the final edit? What reactions have you received so far from audiences and the client?
Mike> Joe’s performance always impressed us. He had to recite the script with perfect timing and he absolutely nailed it. We always knew that Joe had done an amazing job, but we’d been tweaking the edit for weeks, so it was quite hard for us to objectively review the final cut. It was only when we saw the comments people were leaving on Reddit and YouTube that we realised how impactful it was - the video received over 80,000 views on the day of the launch and 14,600 upvotes on Reddit. It was a nice little reminder that the work we do can have an impact on people’s lives.
Graeme> Seeing all the genuine comments from people who had clearly been affected by watching the ad was amazing. CALM’s website also doubled in traffic the day of the video launch. As a creative, you think of an idea and think it’s going to work, but you can never be sure until it’s out there.
LBB> Any other creative insights you’d like to add?