The brief was simple, the answer not so easy. 'How do we talk to men about suicide?' Men are notoriously rubbish at talking about their feelings and emotions. Ask a friend, “How are you doing?” and more than likely you will get a generic answer – “Yeah OK, I suppose” and the subject will quickly be changed to something else less challenging. So the question is, how do we get men to talk openly and honestly about their feelings? To open up because we cannot accept living miserably, and suicide should definitely not be an option.
CALM offers a helpline to those men in crisis. It also encourages men to challenge an outdated culture of masculinity around the pub table, in the media and in the halls of Government.
We asked ourselves, which men out there can openly express their feelings in the public domain without ridicule or condemnation? Which men are actually celebrated for wearing their heart on their sleeves, and for sharing their innermost thoughts and musings?
We landed on the male singer-songwriter, who shares his personal stories, experiences and anguish through his music.
We got together with CALM and came up with an idea. When the going gets tough, maybe CALM could hand men a virtual torch to help guide themselves out of the dark? That was the impetus behind Torch Songs – how a single piece of music can change the way you feel, and in your darkest moments a specific song can stop you in your tracks and change your mood.
We asked male artists to cover the song that helps them through tough times. And therefore were able to use music to get a conversation going with and between men. We devised a campaign which joined the dots between the artists, their cover songs and the issue.
With just six weeks between the inception of Torch Songs and its launch on International Men’s Day, and with no budget (the project was entirely pro-bono), the challenge was to enlist the services of a portrait photographer and a team of film-makers, and develop an iconic identity, print, social content and storytelling, and a web hub – a full blown 360° campaign.
We created the simplest of visual mnemonics – a torch device branding icon – and launched unique self-generating, sound-reactive videos for each track through clever coding. We provided an interactive site, portrait photography of every artist, OOH flyposters and raw, direct-to-camera interviews for every artist. We asked all of them the same two questions: “Why cover this specific track?” and “What does it mean to you to be able to express your emotions through your lyrics and songwriting?" The answers were honest, moving and impactful.
Not only was the project personally rewarding (knowing we were helping people in dire need), but the campaign and uptake snowballed. From an initial handful of artists, the word spread, and before we knew it we had artists and their management contacting us wanting to be a part of Torch Songs, and cover tracks that were defining for them.
Achieving acres of press coverage in the music, lifestyle and broadsheet press – with articles appearing in publications including The Guardian, The Business Times and The Drum – Torch Songs got people all around the country talking about mental health on International Men's Day and beyond.