Bell Let's Talk: Poverty
Bell Let's Talk began after George Cope, the then-new CEO of Bell Canada, desired a new corporate social responsibility program for the company after seeing their competitors Telus had recently adopted the cause of breast cancer. The campaign was designed with a marketing motive in mind; the topic of mental health was chosen largely because it was uncharted territory in the corporate sponsorship area and was sure to be influential.
There was a lot of deliberation towards the name, and over whether or not the ‘Bell’ title should be included in the brand. In the end, the name was included because it made the statement that the company was willing to be seen standing up beside the issue of mental health to combat the stigma. The name "Bell Let’s Talk" was chosen both as a reference to the campaign's goals of encouraging participants to speak up about mental health issues and as a play on the company’s role in the telecommunications industry.
For every interaction on Bell Let's Talk Day, the company pledges 5 Canadian cents towards Canadian mental health initiatives which are then divided among various community projects and major institutions across Canada.
Getting involved is easy using various social media platforms;
Twitter - Every use of the hashtag or view of the video posted on Bell’s account counts as one interaction
Facebook - Every use of the photo frame and view of the video.
Instagram & YouTube - Every view of the video.
Snapchat - Every use of the Bell Let's Talk "geofilter" and view of the video.
Talk - Every call made on Bell’s wireless or telephone network (local or long distance) counts as one interaction.
Text - Every text message sent over a Bell network
At the beginning of the annual Let's Talk Day from 2011 to 2019, Bell had recorded 1,013,915,275 billion total interactions totaling $100,695,763.75 million Canadian dollars raised. Bell claims that "86% of Canadians reported that they are more aware of mental health issues since Bell Let’s Talk began" on their results and impacts webpage.
Even with the giant success, Bell faces criticisms and backlash. For its 2016 campaign, it faced disapproval over an ad that was said to simplify the complexities of mental illness. Another denunciation was Bell getting free exposure and advertising at the expense of mental health. There is also a need to also emphasize poverty and the fact that, according to the Canadian Mental Health Association, people with mental illness often live in chronic poverty.
I think Toronto Star Publisher John Cruickshank's words ring true when he said "If they're getting free advertising, so is the worthy cause of mental health." and I think that's what matters most, especially considering 1 in 5 Canadians in any given year will experience a mental health problem or mental illness.
I also hold hope that Bell will concentrate its future efforts on bringing poverty and it's connections to mental illness to light. Until then, I still feel that Bell Let's Talk regardless of its critiques is a worthy cause deserving of our shares, views, hashtags, and conversation.