How LADbible uses its ‘mate in the WhatsApp group’ status to tackle mental health

The social media publisher, with a monthly audience of approaching 1 billion people, discussed it’s latest wellbeing campaign which is now a permanent fixture across its five major brands.

LADbible Group believes it has a responsibility to “normalise mental health” among young people, which it aims to do by reviving its ‘UOKM8?’ campaign and making it a permanent cornerstone across five of its core brands.

The pandemic has only accelerated feelings of despair among young people, with the group’s research finding more than half of its audience is suffering from mental health issues. Three-quarters (76%) feel anxious, 68% are uncertain, 67% feel lonely and 57% say they are unhealthy.

“We knew we had to respond as a result with something that could make them not feel so alone,” says LADbible’s head of marketing and communications Maya Orr.

As a result, she says UOKM8? is now set to be an “always-on” message across LADbible, SPORTbible, Unilad, GAMINGbible and Tyla, to ensure its audience is always supported.

We knew we had to respond as a result with something that could make [people] not feel so alone.

Maya Orr, LADbible Group

To understand how best to communicate messages around mental health, the company’s data scientists have analysed engagements from its audience across uploaded videos, traditional polls, comments and even emojis.

“It’s really about ensuring our young audience, which is expanding to almost a billion people, don’t feel alone at a time when we are further apart than we ever have been, especially coming up to a year in lockdown,” she says.

“This time we decided to really ramp up our mental health content across five of our brands for the first time… we saw the conversation turning, we saw that people were really tapped into any content that we put out surrounding mental health.”

Understanding the audience

UOKM8? was first launched in 2016 alongside charities CALM, Samaritans, Movember and the Mental Health Foundation. It was initially geared towards young men who are traditionally more tight-lipped when it comes to speaking out about mental wellness or seeking help, but the publisher is now trying to speak to its entire audience of 18- to 34-year-olds.

The campaign was revived on a smaller scale during the first UK lockdown in April last year, with its ‘8K with a M8’ initiative launched to promote socially-distanced exercise to help alleviate feelings of low mental health.

The latest revamp launched during the third UK lockdown was a “no-brainer” Orr tells Marketing Week, as the company recognised readers were “suffering” under continued restrictive measures and in particular after the government’s reversal of relaxation of rules for the Christmas period.

Orr points to LADbible hosting a chat between pop artist Robbie Williams and professional boxer Tyson Fury in December, where the two openly discussed sensitive issues such as suicide, as a turning for the company to “repackage” UOKM8? as an initiative to spread across the business in January.

The video inspired many people to openly discuss their own issues brought to the digital floor between the two celebrities, and even had people reaching out to provide support.

Given its reach – LADbible sees 54.5 million unique visitors across all websites, 3 billion monthly views across socials and a total audience of a billion across all platforms – Orr believes it is in a good position to make a difference.

“We’ve got a massive platform so that means we have a responsibility to tell people it’s OK not to feel OK,” says Orr.

The success of the campaign will also come down to LADbible being seen as “that mate in the WhatsApp group” rather than a company that “dictates” an agenda.

We saw the conversation turning, we saw that people were really tapped into any content that we put out surrounding mental health

Maya Orr, LADbible Group

The publisher wants to be seen as a conduit of communication, enabling people to connect on its platform with others going through the same personal issues.

In order to understand how engaged its audience is and how content is being received it analyses everything, even down to the emojis people are using when sharing articles.

“When putting up content we know straight away whether it’s performing, through the likes, the shares, the engagements,” she says.

“Let’s say we were to work together on a piece of content, and people would be commenting with emojis or just tag a friend in the audience. Through that we can interpret what the connotation is surrounding that content.”