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Karen Michele wins 2022 AdMental competition with ‘#SeeThem’

22 November 2022

Neither of the finalists in this year’s AdMental competition entered as part of a career progression plan.

Instead, both Karen Michele and Vi Le submitted their scripts to the competition – which sees two emerging creatives mentored by advertising agencies to produce TVCs that promote mental health – because the brief caught their imaginations.

“I saw the ad on LinkedIn and as I was studying at the time, I thought why not?,” says Karen, who is in the process of earning her Undergraduate Certificate in Fine Arts. “Even though I’ve seen five decades, I apparently still qualify as an emerging creative… or at least, an extremely mature emerging creative!”

For Vi - a Bachelor of Media Arts student - the decision to enter was similar.

“I had the technical, practical skills of writing a script and because it’s a 60 second script I thought, ‘oh, wow - that’s just one page, I can do that’. And I did it,” she says.

The 2022 brief asked applicants to draft a script that specifically focussed on mental health among first responders, raising public awareness of the challenges, such as PTSD, often borne by those working in police, fire, and ambulance roles.

Picked out as the two scripts with the most potential from among all the applications, Karen and Vi’s treatments took two significantly different tacks.

Vi wanted to offer audiences a way into the issue by finding a metaphor for the high stress situations first responders face in the more quotidian setting of a family BBQ.

“I find it interesting to take existing cultural iconography and see what I can do with it,” she says. “In terms of advertising, it’s supposed to reach a big audience, so I thought let’s get some Aussie iconography in there.”

Produced under the mentorship of KWPX, Vi’s ‘Take a Beating’ spot depicts a slightly surreal world in which a central character is deployed to manage the stresses of repeated BBQs, with the toll clearly building as they show up to help again and again.

Karen tackled the brief using a research process, drawing on a Parliamentary Mental Health Report to better understand the experiences of First Responders and the impact their work can have on their wellbeing.

“I was especially struck by the idea that First Responders see things no human should have to see,” says Karen. “In my mind, the script called for characters with confronting traumatic back-stories to give a voice to these real-life testimonies.”

Working with Fuller Brand Communication, Karen created a cinematically-shot TVC entitled ‘#SeeThem’ featuring three characters who share pieces of their trauma stories in intimate close-up. A “glitch in the matrix” effect reveals the characters in their uniforms and ties each story to the individual’s job.

Both finalists presented their completed TVCs at the AdMental event in late October, and while Vi’s ‘Take A Beating’ won the people’s choice, it was Karen’s ‘#SeeThem’ that secured the judge’s vote.

Alongside being awarded the Geoff Robertson Memorial Trophy, Karen also earned a funded spot at Award School, Adelaide, where she hopes to further explore the new avenue for creativity opened to her by AdMental.

“It’s been an opportunity to lift the veil on the advertising industry and take a peek,” Karen says. “I hope to get into Award School, I see it as a chance to keep exploring what I can do conceptually with imagery and words. I understand it’s pretty grueling – in a good way – but I welcome the challenge.

“Regardless, I just want to keep growing creatively. I’d love to write scripts professionally—for ads and the entertainment industry.

“My plan is to just keep learning and creating, taking every opportunity, and something will happen in that space.”