Three years ago at a major annual networking event in a coastal location to increase ticket sales, Sarah Meyers took the stage. At the time she was the Vice President of Client Relations for Sunny and Stormy, an advertising agency based in New York, with offices in fifteen major cities around the world.
While giving a talk on the future of corporate social responsibility, she famously said, “Gay is out, mental illness is in.”
The line hit industry Twitter, and drew criticism for its soundbite stance. But when Sarah says something, industry insiders listen. In her rapid ascension of a career thus far, she proved time after time that she was always Mostly Correct.
At the time of her presentation, gay pride flags flew atop close to 80% of corporate headquarters and social media profiles where the financial analysis had proved most consumers were at best in full support of such a display and at worst ambivalent. But because of the eventual wide application, the social bonus received for supporting the Cause had diminished to the point where it was news to be proactively against the Cause. Hobby stores, cake shops, etc.
Corporations were now looking for something new to support and to get there early enough to receive a Social Bonus. Sarah had done her homework.
One large coffee company, who remains under NDA with Sunny and Stormy, hired Sarah and her team to draft up a plan to promote mental health awareness.
Meyers built a pitch for the large coffee brand that spread the word on mental illness, creating a Mental Health Month and a specially-designed compostable cup with statistics about various mental illnesses. The large coffee company made a five-cent donation for every coffee ordered during this month to build what is now known as Greater Good, making sure access to mental health care was readily available to those who otherwise couldn’t afford it. Dozens of other major consumer companies jumped on board as part of the campaign, offering mental health sponsorship in exchange for impressions and brand association with a worthy cause. Millions upon millions of dollars were raised every year.
This charity fund mashed together with the ever-increasing popularity of crowdfunded healthcare meant someone with a little creativity and a big social circle could get pretty solid health coverage when needed if they were willing to beg.
The campaign won major awards for Sarah and her agency. She was eventually recruited away to work in-house as Chief Marketing Officer at a major consumer goods company not in competition with any of her past clients due to the enforced non-compete signed earlier in her career. The campaign drove notable growth for the large coffee company, improving stock performance that led to several marketing executives that green-lit the project being promoted, and if third party non-government-funded-but-supposedly-unbiased research is to be believed, saved an estimated 3,700 lives a year from suicide.
Many in the mental health medical community were critical of the campaign, especially the professionals working on less-fashionable mental illness, the ones not listed on cups, the ones that brands didn’t want to associate with. The minimal outrage was muted by the PR machine churning its own narrative. This was a successful campaign, even in its shortcomings, and no psychologist was going to get in the way of that.