By Matt Smith

In January of this year, Capitol Communicator and I launched my weekly “Oh, That’s Good” column, in which I identify and praise some of the great work being done by area ad agencies.  I’ve discovered a great deal of terrific work that I love, and since the column’s inception I’ve written about many advertising and marketing projects created by regional shops with enthusiasm and, sometimes, a bit of envy.

But on April 8, I wrote a column about an ADDY-award-winning campaign from Wunderman Health in D.C. that, quite ironically, ended up resonating with my personal life in a way that I could never have anticipated. (You can see the column here:

First a bit of background.  The campaign addresses the issue of mental health among creative people in the advertising industry.  The straightforward, simple copy on a trio of print ads includes the following statistics:

  • 36% of creative professionals are affected by anxiety disorder
  • Creative professionals are 3 times more likely to suffer from depression
  • 2 out of 3 creative professionals say they can’t always cope with stress.

So, what does this have to do with me?

About three weeks after my column appeared, I found myself in the throes of what I believed was a severe anxiety attack, which at first I thought was a heart attack.  And here is the incredible irony—the attack hit me just as I was getting up on a stage at an industry conference to discuss the work I’ve been writing about in the column, including the Wunderman campaign!  (Check out the photo above.)

There I was, in front of several hundred conference attendees, when I was hit with a horrible pain in my chest and an accompanying severe level of anxiety just as I was showing the crowd slides of an ad campaign about anxiety disorders among creative professionals.

The good news about this experience, for me, has been twofold.  First, after six hours in a nearby hospital emergency room, I was told that I had not suffered a heart attack.  The doctors weren’t sure exactly what had happened, but the symptoms passed and, thankfully, have not returned.  Secondly, because of the Wunderman campaign, I learned that I am not alone.  Apparently there are more than a few of us in our profession who suffer, on occasion, from similar issues.  I have to admit that thought gave me some degree of comfort.

I also learned that these symptoms can manifest themselves at any time—even when you’re doing something you’ve done many times—like presenting creative work—often in considerably worse conditions.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and I want to thank the good folks at Wunderman Health here in D.C. for doing this series. The problems the campaign addresses are very real, and we ignore them at our own peril and risk.  I urge everyone not only to see this important and wonderful ad campaign, but to take its message to heart.  As I learned firsthand, don’t think for a minute that it can’t happen to you.

Matt Smith is founder of SmithGifford, and has close to 40 years’ experience as a creative and agency leader at the nation’s top agencies. SmithGifford is a Capitol Communicator sponsor.

You can find Matt Smith’s earlier columns at Oh, That’s Good.

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