On Super Bowl Sunday, Oklahoma viewers will have the chance to see Kristin Chenoweth tackle mental health issues.
The Tony and Emmy award winner, who hails from Broken Arrow, came up big for her home state in a commercial for the new 988 — Oklahoma’s Mental Health Lifeline. The 30-second spot will debut on television during Sunday’s big game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Philadelphia Eagles.
The new advertisement features the slogan “Get your burden off your back,” and the diminutive stage and screen star with the powerhouse voice personifies a family man’s mental health issues, from singing out his anxieties to leaping on his back to make his depressive thoughts seem heavier.
“When we originally came up with the idea of ‘Get the burden off your back,’ we thought through, ‘Well, what does that look like? Is it a 100-pound weight on your shoulders? Well, what if it was a 100-pound person?’ Then, we spun off that idea and landed on Kristin,” said Matt Farley, associate vice president of business development at Insight Creative Group, the Oklahoma City ad agency that created the commercial.
“She’s like that nagging reminder of all the self-doubt that everybody experiences. We want it to be relatable for all people. With her sense of humor, her performance and her delivery, she really sells the idea.”
Chenoweth, 54, posted a teaser for the Super Bowl ad to her social media this week, adding that she is “Honored to partner with Oklahoma’s 988 — Mental Health Lifeline to raise awareness for this life saving service.
What is 988 and how many Oklahomans have used it so far?
The Super Bowl LVII spot encourages Oklahomans to call or text 988 for assistance with suicidal thoughts, addictive tendencies, stress and other mental health issues.
The new three-digit number designed to help people with mental health issues launched nationwide July 16. In some states, 988 is just a shortcut to reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
In Oklahoma, though, 988 calls are answered by an in-state crisis call center that works to deescalate mental health crises in the moment and help Oklahomans connect with other resources.
“Who’s answering the phone is a licensed mental health and trained specialist who has a real understanding and knowledge base of not only how to provide interventions over the phone … but they’re able to also connect you with local treatment providers in your area,” said Heath Hayes, chief communications officer for the state Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services.
“If you’re really just sad and lonely, anxious, depressed, at 2 o’clock in the morning and you need somebody to talk to, 988 is able to help you with that. If that’s not enough … what they’re able to provide is our mobile crisis response teams.”
Since Oklahoma’s 988 line became operational on July 5, he said the call center has responded to 20,000 calls and 5,000 text messages and dispatched about 1,000 mobile crisis teams.
“We have in Oklahoma about 860 folks who die by suicide every year. One person dying by suicide is way too much, especially when you have preventative services at your fingertips that people didn’t know about,” Hayes said. “We were thinking through, ‘What is the biggest way that we can make an impact to reach the most people to get this on their radar?’ And the Super Bowl was one of those ideas that was kicked around.”
Did a state agency spend millions on a Super Bowl spot?
Since they are reaching America’s largest annual TV audience, national ad slots for the Super Bowl are notoriously expensive, with this year’s record-high price landing in the $7 million-plus range for a 30-second commercial.
But regional ads like the one for 988 Oklahoma, which will only air in the Sooner State, are much more affordable.
“To buy a regional ad in Oklahoma is like $75,000 to $90,000 for the reach you’ll get in that moment … and we had one-time federal funds to be able to make this,” Hayes said.
“Why have this life-saving service that, really, we’re a leader in the nation in how we built it, and nobody know about it?”
With Chenoweth’s star power, Farley said the commercial, which will air statewide, has been listed by Adweek as a featured regional spot.
“Once we shared the storyboard and the script with her and a little bit more about the mission behind 988 … and the placement of the Super Bowl, she couldn’t get on a plane fast enough to come and join us and help out,” he said.
“The 988 number is a massive investment in the state of Oklahoma for helping solve problems in mental health in our state, which is something that’s very much been needed. But the 988 number can’t do anything unless people know that number. Think about how many years 911 has been ingrained into your brain and how your recall of that number is so high. … That’s basically what we’re trying to create from scratch for 988.”
Why was Kristin Chenoweth the right star for the Oklahoma ad?
When the Broadway star hit her signature high notes while filming the ad, Farley said he got chills every time.
“Seeing a talent like Kristin Chenoweth in her element was just an awesome experience,” he said. “We believe that people, specifically Oklahomans, really look up to Kristin Chenoweth. And when they see one of Oklahoma’s favorite people speaking openly about mental health, we hope that that gives them a bit of a green light to also take care of and talk about their mental health.”