Why 'Study Girl,' Anime Star of an Infinitely Looping Video, Went Missing This Week

McCann London cleverly interrupts a musical icon

Though she's associated with soothing hip-hop beats, even Study Girl gets the blues. 

Study Girl is an anime character on College Music's popular YouTube Live page. For more than 19,000 continuous hours, beginning in December, she's been at her desk, hitting the books and chilling with some LoFi tunes, perfect to study by, in a stream that runs on an endless loop—a tranquil companion for students who are also studying. 

But now, visitors to the YouTube video this week will immediately notice Study Girl is missing. "To find out where our study girl is, follow the link in the description," says text in the corner of the video. 

That link leads to this new video: 

what happened to our study girl

As the two-minute clip unfolds, we see Study Girl gripped by hopelessness and desperation. Seemingly out of control, she contemplates taking her own life. 

Ultimately, she finds the strength to press on, and we're told: "Life can be tough at times. Emotions can become overwhelming and even lead to suicidal thoughts. Although it can feel very intense, it's important to remember these feelings will pass. To find out what helped Study Girl, and may help you, click on the link in the description." 

Doing so takes users to a page on Vice that lists suicide-prevention helplines and other resources. 

"As marketers we have the power to spread a message far and wide, and also target the right audiences through the appropriate means," says Robin Gordon, a creative at McCann London, which developed the campaign. "Good mental health is pivotal to the well-being of a person. Monitoring the media closely, we were shocked to find how many young students were buckling under the stress of studying, with some having suicidal thoughts." 

Indeed, College Music noticed a troubling trend where viewers used its YouTube comments section to discuss their rising stress, depression and thoughts of suicide. This could be linked to exam season, when student calls to helplines typically spike.

"So we thought, how can we help? How can we best reach these students and send a positive message, while steering them in the right direction of support?" Gordon says. "That's when we thought we'd use the medium students are using to help them study and chat openly about their feelings." 

McCann crafted the work in consultation with suicide-prevention group the Samaritans, and its strategy appears to be working, as the clip got more than 27,000 views in its first day. In a broader sense, the work speaks to the nature of our online age, where young people writhe in anxiety about getting good grades, or gaining entrance to prestigious schools, isolated by the very technology that should help them connect with others.

"We're trading on stuff young people already watch and enjoy," says Laurence Thomson, chief creative officer at McCann U.K. and co-president at McCann London. "Plus, it was unexpected. There was the element of surprise. Nobody apart from us, College Music and Vice knew that Study Girl would get upset and then stop studying for a while. And we also wanted to do something different—to move away from the traditional spots that highlight mental health."

McCann believes the oft-fragile audience has been grossly underserved.

"While mental health is now being talked about more in the media and workplaces, in the likes of education amongst students, it appears to remain taboo," says agency creative Ella Monti. "We wanted to shed light on the issue and direct people to the right support groups. We want to show people that they're not alone." 

CREDITS

Client – College Music
Co-founder – Jonny Laxton
Co-founder – Luke Pritchard
Creative Agency - McCann London
CCOs at McCann UK and Co-Presidents at McCann London – Rob Doubal & Laurence Thomson
ECDs – Sanjiv Mistry and Jamie Mietz
Creatives – Robin Gordon & Ella Monti
Designer – Matthew Thomas
Senior Planner – Elisa Chami-Castaldi
Senior Project Manager – Paul Gillespie
Director of Communications – Katya Escala
Head of New Business – Elizabeth Bernstein
Senior Account Manager – Robert Stockton
Account Director – Leyla Tezcan
Production (Illustration & Animation)
Illustrator & Animator - Gloria Gemignani
Production (Editor)
Editor - Alastair Graham
Production (Sound) – Craft
Sound Engineer - Gisselle Hall
Sound Engineer - Will Frances

David Gianatasio
David Gianatasio is senior editor at Clio Awards.