On The Set of a Pro Bono Shoot With Cass Bird

Posted by on Thursday July 15, 2010 | Media


A new national, multi-channel advertising campaign that seeks to raise awareness about mental health issues within Hispanic/Latino communities launched last week with images shot by editorial and commercial photographer Cass Bird.

Debuting during National Minority Mental Health Awareness month, the campaign is a collaboration between the Ad Council, The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), and New York-based advertising agency Wing, which focuses on advertising to Hispanic/Latino audiences.

Bird was tapped for the campaign because of the honesty she conveys in her photography, Wing creative director Gustavo Asman told PDN during an interview last year on the set of the shoot. “Just by looking at the first three or four pictures I knew that [she] was the person” for the campaign, he said.

“I’m typically invited to collaborate on campaigns or portraits that are close to my esthetic style,” Bird related after the shoot wrapped. “Something that feels authentic is critical for me.” The clean, straightforward ads feature color and black-and-white portraits of young Hispanic adults shot on location in a café and on the street in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York.

According to SAMHSA, one in seven Hispanic/Latino adults have suffered from psychological distress in the past year. Yet the number of young adults in minority communities who seek help for mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia is much lower than in Caucasian communities.

The campaign seeks to address this discrepancy by encouraging friends and family of those suffering from mental illness to accept their condition and support them in seeking help. The ad concepts take a cue from social networking sites like Facebook, cleverly utilizing the decision users make to “accept or ignore” new friends who’d like to become part of their network.

“Si un amigo te cuenta que tiene un problema de saludo mental, tienes dos opciones” (“If a friend tells you they have a mental health problem, you have two options”), reads the text of one ad. In hand-drawn boxes, the viewer sees the options to “Accept” or “Ignore” the friend with the condition. The ads also encourage young adults to visit a SAMHSA Web site built for the campaign where they can learn more how to help a friend to recovery.

Bird said at the time that she was new to Facebook, but that a large number of her friends used the networking site. The relevance of the creative and the goal of the campaign made it easy for her to volunteer her time, she said. “I agree with the concept that if people were more comfortable, and if people were embraced and accepted for who they are despite their obstacles, whatever they are, [mental illness] wouldn’t take as many people down as it does.”

Bird, who receives a lot of requests to shoot pro-bono work, said the experience of working with a group of people who were donating their time in order to do something positive was rewarding, and added that there was a festive and warm atmosphere on-set.

“This in particular was a really good opportunity for me to donate my time in a way that had an actual impact on the community,” she said. “By volunteering your time you can feel like you are doing something positive or good, and I think we all appreciate an opportunity to do that.”

The campaign includes print, outdoor and Web banner ads that feature Bird’s images.


Cass Bird: Photographer
Heather Church: Art Buyer/Production

Gustavo Asman: Chief Creative Officer
John Castrillon: Associate Creative Director
Christian Liu: Art Director
Ralph Del Corral: Art Director
Omar Kardoudi: Copy Writer
Ivette Mederos: Art Director
Laura Gomez: Proofreader/Translator
Rosalynn Rivera: Creative Project Manager

Other credits:
Ad Council/SAMHSA: Ellyn Fisher
Production: Kevin Robinson, Fred & Associates
Stylist: Liz McClean, The Wall Group
Groomer: Khela Tyson, The Wall Group