Why Britain's Got Talent, and the Ads Around It, Suddenly Went Silent

An intriguing stunt to get people talking—for their health

Anxiety and depression in children has risen by 48 percent since 2004. The reveal of that shocking statistic, on air Saturday night by the hosts of ITV's Britain's Got Talent, ushered in a very creative segment of the show—and a creative ad break, too—that launched a big new mental-health campaign in the U.K. 

The show's hosts announced the initiative, called "Britain Get Talking," and then said they were pausing the show completely. Acknowleding that TV and smartphones use can be isolating, they encouraged viewers at home to reconnect with one another. And then observed a full minute of silence to let them do so. 

The judges—Simon Cowell, Amanda Holden, Alesha Dixon and David Walliams—fell silent, as did the audience. Meanwhile, the show's crew held placards that read, "Use our silence to talk to each other." 

Here's how it went down during the program: 

Silence can be powerful, and is certainly a novelty during an often boisterous reality competition like this one. Also, there's a nice counterintuitive quality to going silent in order to encourage talk—conceptually, it works well. Uncommon Creative Studio devised the campaign. 

The stunt extended to the commercials. In the ad break immediately following the minute of silence, ITV itself aired the spot below, featuring talent from a variety of its programs also being completely silent—while holding signs furthering the narrative that simply talking to one another, and not holding anxiety or depression inside, boosts mental health: 

After the ITV spot, five advertisers—Dunelm, Oral-B, Gillette, SEAT and Network Rail—also took the plunge. They each got 30 seconds of airtime in the theatrical 2:30 video below, directed by Nez through Pulse Films: 

"Britain Get Talking" messaging will continue on ITV over the next month. The campaign will include promos, radio, break bumpers, website content and print. It will also feature specific creative on TV and social timed to World Mental Health Day on Thursday, Oct. 10.

The campaign is supported by mental health charities Mind and YoungMinds. It is the first stage of a five-year commitment from ITV to promote mental wellness. The network has set a goal of getting 10 million people to take action to improve their mental or physical health by 2023. 

"ITV brings people together for unmissable shared viewing moments. By disrupting one of our biggest shows this Saturday night, we want to reach a wide family audience and create the space to start a national conversation about mental wellness," says Carolyn McCall, ITV's CEO. 

"ITV is a brand that matters," adds Lucy Jameson, co-founder of Uncommon. "It is a positive and powerful voice in British culture. We wanted to focus that power on mental health and, in particular, the mental wellbeing of our children. All the statistics say there's a rising problem among today's kids, with people spending more time than ever 'together alone.' We wanted to make something that went beyond advertising. Changing programming. Involving talent across the whole channel. And even pausing its most iconic shows to provoke important conversations across the nation. That's what 'More than TV' is all about."

ITV has gotten creative with ad breaks before for a good cause. In 2016, it created knitted stop-motion versions of popular ads and aired them in a pod together—as part of its annual Text Santa program, which raises funds for organizations like Macmillan Cancer Support, Make-A-Wish U.K. and Save the Children.

CREDITS

Project name: Britain Get Talking
Creative Agency: Uncommon Creative Studio
Client: ITV
Production company: Pulse Films
Director: Nez
Production Producer: David French
Editor: Rich Woolway at Speade
Editing Producer: David French
DOP: Harry Wheeler and Spike Morris 
Post-production and VFX: Jon Hollis at Raised By Wolves
Grade: Vic Parker at Raised By Wolves
Audio post-production: Soundtree
Media agency: Goodstuff

Project: Silent Ad Break
Production company: Pulse Films
Director: Nez
Producer: Alistair Payne-James
Editor: Tom Boucher @ Absolute post
Post-production: Ben Robards @ Absolute post
Grade: Adam Clarke
Sound: Jungle Studios
DOP: Jonas Moretensen

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Tim Nudd
Tim Nudd is editor in chief of the Clio Awards.