Talk It Up


A thin line separates normal teen angst and perilous teen depression. Faced with physical, social and psychological challenges, teenagers often ride a fairly wide spectrum of emotions. But teen depression can be dangerous, leading to decisions that destroy longterm self interests and, sometimes, even suicide.

The South Texas Health Research Center (STHRC), a division of the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio (UTHSCSA), was tasked with developing a program for teenage depression. STHRC wanted to create awareness of depression in adolescents and provide solutions for students, educators and parents.

paying attention

A good communications firm does not address teen audiences without consulting with a representative sample. After a thorough focusdriven discovery process, esd understood that teens listen to peers first, and all other sources second. We started “TalkItUp,” a campaign to influence peer conversations with subtle suggestions and straight encouragement.

social media b.f. (before Facebook)

Most importantly, esd launched a website with a feature that featured a novel – at the time (2004) – concept: social media. The TalkItUp. com website had an “Ask a Friend” forum where teens could post questions (anonymously or signed) and get feedback from their peers. Before MySpace had a space, before Facebook had a face, before YouTube went viral, we suddenly had thousands of teens exchanging questions, answers and comments on the web. The site was monitored and coordinated with teen volunteers coordinated by an STHRC project administrator.

promotional partnerships to spread the word

To help with the launch, esd partnered with Double Dave’s Pizza and KBBT-FM, 98.5 “The Beat” to advance the awareness campaign for the program and generate traffic on the site. Both partners offered official wristbands and t-shirts as free promotions for the website. KBBT launched a band contest around the TalkItUp campaign that resulted in an original song. esd coordinated school events and developed an aggressive outdoor creative campaign to drive teens to the website.

growing the program with parent and school counselor education

In the second and third years of the TalkItUp program, the campaign spread to communicate with teachers, parents and other adults involved with teens. esd produced educational materials around the indicators for teen depression, helping adults understand the difference between angst and real depression. Parents were informed about depression, and told how to talk to their teens and get help when needed. The educational curriculum was implemented with teachers, counselors and peer influences working in awareness programs in area high schools. We supported the program with TalkItUp direct mail, direct marketing inserts, tv spots and continuing outdoor displays.

result: reaching thousands of teens with guidance and comfort

More than 10,000 teens across San Antonio and South Texas visited the TalkItUp website, which received heavy traffic daily and was viewed in over 60 countries. TalkItUp continues as an active program in the University Health System and several San Antonio high schools.

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