Citizen Relations creates 'ugly (truths) holiday sweaters'

Citizen Relations is raising awareness with a fashion statement.
Citizen Relations is raising awareness with a fashion statement.

The firm is working to raise awareness that, for some people, the winter holidays are not the season to be jolly.

Citizen Relations is using the season’s ugly sweater fad to generate conversations about holiday blues. 

In a season traditionally flooded with campaigns reminding the public it’s a time of family, friends, gift giving, joy and merriment, the comms firm’s campaign will try to balance public discussion, reaching out to people struggling with mental health.

As 64% of Americans suffer from holiday blues, including anxiety and depression, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, Citizen Relations is raising awareness with a fashion statement.

With a $25,000 campaign budget, the PR firm designed sweaters, emblazoned with sobering statistics, such as: “For 54% of teen girls ‘tis the season depression gets worse.” manufactured 300 sweaters, of which the company and its cofounder Fred Hajjar donated half. There are three designs for the U.S., three for Canada and one with a French translation. 

They focus on the darker truths of the toll that the pressures and realities of the holidays can take, explained Josh Budd, Citizen Relation’s chief creative officer.

“The iconic ugly holiday sweater felt like the perfect Trojan horse to communicate our message,” he said. “Flipping something on its head is always good creative fodder.”

Citizen Relations recruited high-profile people, such as Genie Bouchard, a pro tennis player in the 2014 Wimbledon finals and Priyanka, winner of the first season of Canada’s Drag Race, to promote the initiative.

“We invite anyone who has a circle of influence -- celebrities, influencers, media and C-suite executives -- who wants to participate in our campaign to reach out to us and we’ll send them a sweater in an effort to help grow and sustain the conversations,” said Budd. 

Starting this week and through the end of the month, volunteers will be donning the sweaters and spreading the word that people suffering during the holidays are not alone and can seek help. 

The agency is reaching out and distributing the sweaters across the U.S. and Canada, encouraging people to share photos with the hashtag #UglyHolidayTruths. It will follow up, promoting Dr. Mike Dow in the U.S. and the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) in Canada to speak about mental health during the holidays.

Citizen Relations is donating money to the CMHA and organizations that support mental health in the U.S., and encouraging others to do the same.

Lindsay Page, Citizen Relations VP of strategy, conceived the campaign idea. Budd oversaw the creative execution by designers Myo Illidge and Hilary Walls, with support from consultants Randy De Melo and Joel Arbez. Kristen Neamtz produced the campaign, under the leadership of Citizen Relations VP Josie Haynes, and director Jina Michael. 

The agency plans to measure success by tracking online donations to the CMHA and traffic to the association’s article “How to Protect Your Mental Health During the Holidays,” written as part of the initiative. It will also measure social conversations and media coverage generated through the campaign.

Citizen Relations reported $438 million in global revenue in 2020, according to PRWeek’s 2021 Agency Business Report. This represented a 4% increase from the prior year. Citizen Relations was owned by Vision7 (majority-owned by BlueFocus). In November, the agencies spun off to become part of Plus Company.

This article originally appeared on PRWeek.

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