When saying little says a lot:Supporting Black Dog Institute to reach Australians in need of support (but may not know it) - Journal | Strategic Design Consultancy | Folk


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When saying little says a lot
Supporting Black Dog Institute to reach Australians in need of support (but may not know it)

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What we say when we don’t want to say

Often, when asked how we are – and we’re not certain ourselves – we keep it short. Let’s-move-on vague. “I’m good, thanks”. Or similar.

Question fielded. Answer avoided.

It serves its social purpose, but rarely reflects – or reflects on – what’s actually going on inside. Behind the seen.

This insight led to a disarmingly arresting ad idea – and results that far surpassed expectations – in our recent pro-bono project with Black Dog Institute (BDI) and Reddit. 

The task: a Reddit ad to help people find help

BDI approached Folk towards the end of 2023 to build on our experience and insights in mental health with a new and specific challenge. 

BDI wanted to explore:

  • whether Reddit (the highly popular platform where users can anonymously post, view and share links) 
  • would be a good space in which to engage with  
  • people who were expressing suicidal ideation and using the platform to share or express their thoughts. 

Finding help, while searching

In 2021, BDI trialled a similar approach using Google AdWords to identify people at risk of suicide and connect them to support through the Hope Exchange project (a suicide prevention website developed by BDI).

The Google AdWords campaign provided promising evidence that this approach of targeting people at the point of searching had a high-level of reach and engagement, however, it wasn’t clear if this would be similar for Reddit.

With funding to trial the approach before the end of 2023, BDI needed help from Folk to conceive, write and design ad ideas. 

Frankly helpful. Helpfully frank

We researched the Reddit platform and sub-reddits BDI were looking to advertise on to get a feel for the content, tone, types of ads, verbal and visual language, to ensure that our ads resonated (or perhaps dissonated) amid the news and noise.

Unlike with Google Ads, Reddit readers may not be actively searching for suicide-related content. We needed to frankly coax people – to interrupt them – into considering seeking help. Help and support that would make sense to them. Their needs. Now.

As ear-catching as eye-catching. At-a-glance honest and empathic. In message and meaning. The goal was to help people click and find help.

Hidden in plain sound

It was important that the ad felt like a conversation with a person. Not an organisation. Fresh and familiar. The supporting message subtly expressed the difficulties people might be experiencing. Balancing ‘too dark’ or overtly ‘suicide-prevention’, with ‘too generic’ or subtle to be missed – or overlooked.

To get noticed. To get through. To get help.  

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It clicked – with over 49,000 clicks

The single ad ran for two weeks in December 2023 (which is a peak period for an increase in calls to support lines).

The ad attracted more than 49,000 click-throughs in that short space of time.

The result  exceeded all expectations. A strong proof of concept that even when people aren’t specifically seeking help, concerning feelings are present, if not yet apparent.

We’re really excited by the positive impact and the data that is coming out from this trial, and are looking forward to seeing how the Hope Exchange continues to grow and evolve.

Written by:
Louise Helliwell; Experience Design Director & Partner,
Graham Barton; Creative Director