March 25th, 2024
Reading time 5 min.

Advertising: A Force for Good

Adverts indirectly project themselves onto every aspect of our lives.  From mindlessly swiping on social platforms to switching on the TV, and even walking past billboards on the street, advertising surrounds us. But what does this mean for one of the major concerns of modern society: mental health?

Only after the Mental Health Act was passed in the UK in 1959, the stigma surrounding mental health declined and this trend could be sensed all over Europe. It stated that the mental health of patients was not to be considered any less important than physical illnesses, driving years of research and studies to better understand the phenomenon. By raising awareness and visibility of mental health, notable improvements have been made. However, poor mental health remains a serious problem today. The WHO, for example, estimates that 5% of adults globally suffer from depression in the 21st century.

Accordingly, new initiatives need to be made to drive greater change, and it seems that advertising can serve as such a catalyst. This article will explore the impact advertisements can have on encouraging positive mental health, with a specific focus on the power of narrative storytelling.

The power of advertising

Advertising is all about influencing behaviours. Undeniably, the focus of advertising is to encourage high purchase intent among the targeted audience. However, it cannot be questioned that in the path to ensure this, advertising often influences other forms of human behaviour and emotion. In the proper context and with the right intentions, advertising can use its narrative power of storytelling to influence these emotions, in the hope of not only increasing purchase intent, but more importantly, being used as an educational tool to spread awareness and create positive transformations.

Why is this relevant for RTL AdAlliance?

At RTL AdAlliance, our mission is to connect brands and audiences in culturally relevant contexts. We listen to our clients, providing premium insights and solutions to help optimise advertising campaigns, always taking their desired message into account.

Moreover, the global influence of media is unparalleled. In Europe alone, for example, an average of 3h22 of TV is watched daily. Furthermore, it is TV that drives the majority of ad spend in Europe, with a total of 119m+ TV spots being broadcast in Europe in 2022. Specifically Linear TV delivers a huge number of campaigns gathering the biggest brands and capturing a large share of ad spend. Therefore, is without a doubt that TV is a great medium to leverage and deliver all kinds of messages to a large audience globally.

Therefore, through strategic partnerships with our TV broadcasters, like ITV, M6 and RTL Deutschland and advertisers, RTL AdAlliance can work to promote advertising campaigns that are entertaining and might even have a positive drive for mental health awareness and education. 

With these collaborations, advertising strategies can be tailored to specific and diverse audiences, effectively engaging individuals on the topic of mental health in ways that are relatable and impactful.

Context is the thing

In recent years, a prominent trend in Total Video is the emphasis on delivering content in the right context to improve success.Especially when looking at highly sensitive topics, like mental health, this consideration is of utmost importance.

NBC Universal’s B2B TV advertising campaign, conducted in 2023, confirms this outlook. The study consisted of assessing the biometric engagement of viewers with various content genres. They measured the heartbeat and skin response of viewers alongside declarative feedback regarding the suitability of content for advertising. The findings were conclusive: premium content placed in an emotional context significantly impacts advertising success.

An emotional context refers to scenarios involving mirror representation, inclusivity, and empathy, where audiences see reflections of themselves or others. Keeping this in mind, if we shift the focus of advertising content towards empathy-driven, relatable social issues, audiences are more likely to pay attention, leading to the inevitable spread of awareness. 

To learn more about audience viewing habits take a look at the article, ‘The choice is theirs’ featured in our TV Key Facts book.

Again, here I think we are rather talking about context than content here, the link to the NBCU research is fine - it's about making sure the message is delivered in the right environment which is indeed very important when the topic is highly sensitive.


Certain campaigns, like ITVs ‘Britain gets talking’ and NFLs ‘My Cause, My Cleats x Kicking the Stigma’ have already taken this initiative, aiming to use advertising as a force to shift the attention of consumers towards pressing social issues such as mental health.

1) Britain gets talking

Britain Gets Talking was a multi-faceted mental health campaign launched by RTL AdAlliance’s partner, ITV, in partnership with charities Mind and YoungMinds, in 2019. This campaign’s impactful message debuted through the unscripted airing of a campaign video during the final of "Britain's Got Talent." This one-minute interruption aimed to encourage families to engage in conversation and foster openness. The campaign adopted an approach focused on both acting and educating to promote behaviour change.

The campaign was sensitive, real and empathic. It has since initiated 100 million new and more meaningful conversations about mental health in Britain alone. Notably, since the campaign, astonishing 40% of mental health issues in Britain schools have declined.

2) NFL - My Cause, My Cleats x Kicking the Stigma

The NFL - "My Cause, My Cleats x Kicking the Stigma" initiative is another example of a campaign that used advertising as a force for good. This campaign included players wearing custom-designed cleats representing various causes.

Since 2021, Project Healthy Minds has been a founding partner organisation of Kicking the Stigma. This collaboration aimed to raise awareness about mental health and remove the stigma often associated with mental health disorders.

NFL players thus transcended the boundaries of sports and became advocates for change. They literally ‘kicked’ the stigma of many social taboos to help raise awareness, whilst also inspiring others to take action and create a more inclusive and supportive community.


Both campaigns exemplify that advertising, in the right context, can be used as a force for good. Leveraging their power of audience reach, advertisements can embed themselves in social issues, sparking necessary conversations and driving meaningful transformations. Numerous other brands and platforms have also started initiating similar campaigns, such as ITVs award winning ‘The last photo case study’, spotlighted in Simon Daglish’s article featured in our TV Key Facts 2023 book. 

At RTL AdAlliance, we are here to encourage such changes. We work with premium content publishers, meaning the contexts within which we work with are extremely curated. Thus, we have the ability to drive campaigns to address the necessary sensitive topics, in the right contexts, and create global reach. 

Only with these efforts can change be achieved, offering a beacon of hope in combating the prevailing mental health challenges that surround us.