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How NIVEA MEN Found Strength in Numbers

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Tim Clegg, executive creative director at Digitas UK speaks to LBB’s Zoe Antonov about the importance of men’s mental health and why you don’t have to face certain feelings alone

How NIVEA MEN Found Strength in Numbers

NIVEA MEN have teamed up with Talk Club and the boys from Liverpool FC U8 academy, as well as boys from local primary schools, to raise awareness for men’s mental health struggles through their new campaign ‘Strength in Numbers,’ directed by Digitas UK.

The film for the campaign features the young boys reciting lines from the LFC anthem, You’ll Never Walk Alone, in different urban locations and at the end of the film we see them together at the Liverpool training academy, as a statistic shows up on the screen. A sobering realisation comes over audiences, as they see the number - 50% of mental health problems begin before the age of 14.

Following the statistic, viewers are directed to the NIVEA MEN Strength in Numbers website, where they are faced with the question ‘How are you? Out of 10.’ Aiming to start conversation with people of all ages struggling with any mental health issues on various spectrums, the campaign sheds light on the neglecting of men’s mental health care. As a topic often neglected in society, creative media has become more aware of the necessity to stir a conversation and educate audiences, on every level, about why they shouldn’t be facing inner struggles alone. Along with the film, Digitas developed the new strategic and creative platform for the campaign, the Strength in Numbers site and the mental fitness content supported by Talk Club. 

Relating with audiences on a few levels - through involving the young boys from the Liverpool academy and local schools, as well as broaching a topic that is close to the hearts of many men in the country - the NIVEA MEN campaign film was shot by Karen Cunningham, who is renowned for the extraordinary natural performances she gleans from children. 

Tim Clegg, executive creative director at Digitas UK, spoke to LBB’s Zoe Antonov about the messaging of the campaign, the research that warranted its creation and the brand beliefs of NIVEA MEN.

LBB> What was the brief for this campaign and what were the initial conversations surrounding it?

Tim> The brief was simple: to help NIVEA MEN combat loneliness. The campaign idea really started to form in conversation between myself and Emma de la Fosse, Digitas UK chief creative officer. Being parents of young boys, male mental health is an issue that’s very close to both our hearts. 

Looking at the many campaign messages out there being aimed at men, we felt there was something missing. Men are always being told we should open up and talk more about how we are feeling. But for the average bloke there is still a stigma – it’s seen as a sign of weakness. And the abstract language of most campaigns doesn’t help. Try asking a builder in Sheffield to ‘open up’ and you’ll see what I mean. 

We both agreed that the idea needed to flip the narrative from weakness to strength – but most importantly, be simple enough that any man, or one of our sons, would understand how to talk about their mental health.  

LBB> What research was carried out before the start of the campaign and what were the results that prompted the idea?

Tim> As part of the campaign, we looked at a lot of different data and conducted research of our own with 2,000 men. It was pretty bleak: 44% of men have never opened up about to someone about how they are feeling. And 50% of mental health problems begin before the age of 14. 

The research confirmed our two big challenges.

1. For things to really change we needed men to want to talk.
2. We needed a way to help them talk that was so simple a child could do it. 

The answer to the first challenge was a no brainer. As sponsors of Liverpool FC, NIVEA MEN had access to a team who, led by Jurgen Klopp’s famously open communication ethos, embody the kind of mental strength and resilience that men of all ages aspire to. 

The second challenge was harder to crack. Until we met Ben. 

After his closest friend Steve took his own life, Ben Akers co-founded Talk Club – a charity for men that’s a bit like a gym session, where you can become mentally stronger from just talking openly with each other. 

The genius that inspired our campaign idea and website content is that every Talk Club session starts with a question so simple that anyone (from that builder in Sheffield to my nine-year-old son) can understand: “How are you? Out of 10?”. By using numbers, men find it much easier to quantify their feelings and start the conversation. 

And so ‘Strength in Numbers’ became our idea. 

LBB> What was it like working with Liverpool FC and Talk Club?

Tim> To work with Liverpool FC this season of all seasons has been a real privilege. From the very first time we talked to them about using the lyrics of their anthem ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ to launching the campaign, they have supported the idea. Everyone from the partnership team to the U8s squad to the security guy on the gates at Anfield went out of their way to help. 

Ben and the team at Talk Club I can’t thank enough. They’ve been so generous with their time. When you are tackling a delicate subject like men’s mental health it’s hugely important to get the messaging right. Their experience talking to men across the UK week in week out helped us develop a campaign that we hope will give anyone the practical tools to have a healthy conversation.    

LBB> How does this campaign resonate with the brand pillars of NIVEA MEN?

Tim> NIVEA MEN is a brand that helps men take care of themselves every day and this campaign is helping us take care of our mental health too. The power of a brand like Nivea doing this is that it’s helping make good mental health part of men’s daily routines. 

LBB> The youngsters in the film did an amazing job at conveying the message! What was it like working with them and how did you go about explaining the concept of men's mental health care to them?

Tim> The boys were hands down the highlight of working on this. None of them were actors – they were all from Liverpool FC U8s and local primary schools. Our incredible director Karen Cunningham helped us cast a beautifully diverse mix of characters - each chosen to embody a different line of the lyrics. I think the authenticity of her approach and her ability to put them at ease helped us capture something special in each of them.   

All the boys except one were Liverpool fans and so had an instinctive grasp of what ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ and our campaign is really all about – supporting each other and being mentally strong. 

LBB> Do you believe that the industry is making progress on speaking about men's mental health and what do you believe can be done better when it comes to this social issue in terms of education and recognition?

Tim> We are getting there. But there’s still a lot to do. I think in many ways the pressures men and boys face today are greater than ever. So, even though there are undoubtedly more campaigns addressing the issues than ever before, the male suicide rates in the UK still speak for themselves. 

We have a responsibility to ensure we aren’t just talking about the problems but investing our time and budgets into ideas that will make a real difference. I think sometimes as an industry we are guilty of assuming the answer is awareness and an ad campaign, when actually the solution might be more of a grass roots approach like Talk Club. 

LBB> What were the most challenging parts of the project and, equally, the most rewarding?

Tim> The most challenging part was the shoot – 10 boys in 10 locations in 10 hours. I still don’t know how we did it. Karen, Thu and the production team at Prodigious were incredible. 

Most rewarding: I hope in some way helping Ben in his mission to save the next Steve.   

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Digitas, Fri, 13 May 2022 16:47:36 GMT