MTV Active Minds A.S.K

Shelley Adamson, Veronica Watson Kuc

MTV: Acknowledge, Support, Keep-in-Touch (A.S.K.)

‘Who do we turn to first when we’re struggling? Most of the time it’s our friends and while we all want to help, most of us don’t know how. Through our digital experiences, we’re empowering and motivating youth to better support their peers by providing an environment where they can practice navigating and learn from difficult conversations.’

Shelley Adamson, Creative Director, UNIT9

The background

In the lead up to Mental Health Action Day, SHOWTIME/MTV Entertainment Studios and youth mental health nonprofit Active Minds wanted to meet young people where they hang out and create a digital ecosystem to equip them with the skills and confidence to provide emotional support to their friends.

At the project’s core is the A.S.K. framework – Acknowledge, Support and Keep-in-Touch. This easy-to-use approach equips users to navigate supportive conversations, similar to how ‘stop-drop-and-roll’ empowers people to handle fire safety. Importantly, the framework is applicable for anyone, not just young people, and can be used in everyday situations.

The execution

To spark widespread interest in A.S.K. and connect with young people online where they frequently spend their time, we created two engaging online experiences: an interactive YouTube video and a website.

The ‘choose-your-own-adventure’ style video placed viewers in the shoes of Charlie, our protagonist, guiding them through a conversation with friend Luna who is experiencing a tough time. Each decision point for the viewer – presented via clickable thumbnails and title cards – gave an opportunity to apply and practise the A.S.K. framework, with the narrative flow branching based on the chosen response. With a branching narrative comprised of 22 videos, viewers chose their own path. All the paths ultimately converged, resulting in all viewers learning the full A.S.K. framework, regardless of the choices they made.

We created the interactive video using YouTube’s end card feature. We also embraced the beta ‘multi-language’ feature which allowed us to include voice-over narration in multiple languages, as chosen by the creator, providing an accessible listening experience.

 

To complement the video, we created a mobile-first website that offered a concise explanation of the A.S.K. framework. Interactive features included SMS-based and chat-bot-style conversations with Charlie, an ‘emotions wheel’ to explore feelings and a calendar reminder tool for checking in on friends. The website’s design incorporated a story-like landing page with parallax animations, divided into chapters that reflect the A.S.K. acronym. Users could also download social media shareable: a customisable checklist promoting healthy friend support practices.

The results

The transformative goal of this project was to empower people of all ages to show up for their loved ones and have more open and supportive conversations. By fostering empathy and essential communication skills, it has the potential to create a lasting, positive shift in how we navigate everyday emotional interactions and adapt our approach to mental health.


Credits