On March 21, Ant and Dec, hosts of ITV's popular Saturday Night Takeaway program in the U.K., invited their nearly 10 million viewers to share messages of love and support as a way to combat anxiety and depression amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Part of the broadcaster's "Britain Get Talking" mental-health campaign, which launched with creative shop Uncommon last fall, the appeal drew some 3 million calls, texts and videos.
Uncommon combined some of those responses into an affecting 90-second clip that aired before Saturday Night Takeaway's season finale on March 28. The piece also includes input from celebrities Gordon Ramsay, Davina McCall, Susanna Reid, Lorraine Kelly, Ed Balls, Ruth Davidson MSP Fred Sirieix and Laura Whitmore:
Themed "Apart. But Never Alone," the push has generated messages of appreciation from everyday folks to family, friends, the National Health Service, teachers and essential workers. It's a simple premise, but powerful in its way, giving everyone a chance to share their feelings. (Oddly, the episode of Saturday Night Takeaway that followed the :90's premiere drew fire for insensitive infection jokes.)
Uncommon and ITV adapted the "Apart. But Never Alone" approach on the fly as the pandemic took hold.
"We had intended on following up the initiative later in the year and had a very different sequel planned, but then COVID-19 hit and we knew that the idea and what it stood for could be critically important within this period," Uncommon co-founder Nils Leonard tells Muse. "We worked fast and came up with the idea of playing out people's messages to each other on a national stage. We wanted ITV's scale to make powerful personal moments inspiring to everyone. This part of the idea came from the simple insight that people creating a message for someone they love isn't just emotional, but provocative."
Such heartfelt video messaging, Leonard says, "works like a love-frag grenade. And as you watch another person's message, you just can't help but start thinking about the one person that you need to call, the sorry, the thank you or the I love you that you should have said."
Messages in the series will play across ITV properties for at least the next month, and the mix of celebrities and regular folks—communication via the exact same platform—supports the notion that everyone's in this together, fighting for the same cause.
"With everything that is going on outside of the COVID crisis, it's very easy to become a cynic, and a sniper," says Leonard, "to wake up thinking that no one gives a shit and join the rant."
Watching "Apart. But Never Alone," however, is a reminder that "people are fucking amazing," he says. "They are loving and funny and most importantly of all, they care. Spending 10 minutes looking at the messages on #BritainGetTalking is like an empathy reset."
"We will feature as many as possible on air over the coming weeks," adds ITV director of social purpose Clare Phillips. "Physical isolation doesn't have to mean social isolation. Britain has never needed to connect more."
You can check out some additional celebrity messages at this YouTube playlist.
Campaign Name: Britain Get Talking. Apart. But Never Alone.
Creative Agency: Uncommon Creative Studio
Charity Partners: YoungMinds and Mind
Media Agency: GoodStuff
Post Production: Absolute Post
Sound Design: Wave Studios
Editors: Work Editorial