Advertising Week shines light on mental health: marketers ‘a very stressed out bunch’
Thousands of marketing professionals have been gathering in New York City for one of the industry’s biggest annual events. Psychological health and wellness has emerged as a major focus.
Mindfulness teacher Rosie Acosta leads a group meditation during a panel at Ad Week 2022. / Advertising Week
Advertising Week 2022, now in its third day, has placed a heavy emphasis on mental health.
2020 will be remembered by history as a grim year – not only due to rates of physical illness caused by the novel coronavirus, but also due to the psychological impact of a global pandemic. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), roughly 1-in-15 adults in the US reported having both a substance use disorder as well as another mental illness 2020, and more than 12 million US adults seriously contemplated suicide.
Numbers like those are impossible for marketers to ignore.
As the world continues to find its footing in a post-pandemic era, many brands have become increasingly cognizant of the need to discuss mental health more openly, both with their customers and with their employees.
This was evidenced in the schedule for this year’s Advertising Week. Each of the event’s four days features at least one panel devoted to mental health. (Advertising Week is broken into a series of panels, some of which have been taking place live in a venue in Manhattan’s Lower East Side and some of which were pre-recorded and are available online.)
Monday, for example, featured a pre-recorded event hosted by Arianna Huffington, titled From Languishing to Thriving: Solving the Burnout Crisis. In her introduction, Hufifngton remarked: “The stress and burnout crisis predates the pandemic, but the pandemic has accelerated the crisis and has moved these issues to the front of every business agenda. And even though we are dealing with this huge epidemic, social unrest, [and] economic uncertainty, we are also at the same time dealing with incredible opportunities to redefine the way we work and live, because we are all recognizing that the old model of working, that dates back to the Industrial Revolution, is broken.”
The following day (Tuesday), a panel of experts gathered on stage for an event titled Let’s Talk About Men’s Mental Health. In one memorable moment, panelist Richard Dorment, editor-in-chief of Men’s Health, spoke about the importance of remaining honest and even vulnerable when addressing the subject of mental health. “The most important tool that any of us have as storytellers is personal experience and personal narrative,” he said. “So when people are more forthcoming about their challenges, when they’re willing to talk about what’s going on – publicly or privately – that’s what changes minds and that’s what changes attitudes.”
Another live event yesterday, hosted by the vice-president of global brand marketing at the popular meditation app Headspace, featured an in-person meditation session. Just a bunch of marketers, sitting quietly in a room in the heart of New York City, following their breath. (At one point, the host of that event acknowledged that marketers tend to be “a very stressed out bunch.”)
It probably felt a bit odd for many people in that audience to be sitting silently with their eyes closed for minutes on end. But given the vibrant dialogue around mental health at this year’s Advertising Week, who knows: maybe group meditations for marketers will soon become an everyday thing?
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