Event Coverage

Thriving Creative Partnerships: How CALM and adam&eveDDB worked together to control our online COVID consumption



With the arrival of COVID-19 came the race from most people to know more and to remain informed about a situation that impacted us all. Yet the relentless news cycle can have detrimental effects, particularly when so many of us are now experiencing a 24/7 online existence. 

To counter this, The Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) launched a Google Chrome extension to help people limit when and how much Coronavirus-related news they're consuming a day. The COVID Blocker is not a suggestion from the charity to avoid the news altogether, but rather to encourage people to control what they consume.

While the ongoing coronavirus pandemic centres around people’s physical health, it is the nation’s mental health that is simultaneously being impacted by the crisis. The lockdown period and general feeling of uncertainty has produced a collective anxiety that still flows like an undercurrent beneath every conversation, communication and interaction people are having. The impact of our current reality is unprecedented and CALM reported over 24,000 calls to their helpline in the first two months of lockdown. 

Esrael Alem and Matthew Butler, Senior Creatives at adam&eveDDB, and Ben Hawley from CALM talk to BITE Deputy Editor Izzy Ashton about why the COVID Blocker is an essential tool in dealing with the woes of the world when they're weighing so heavily on us.

Since the recording of this interview, the CALM Covid Blocker is now no longer available on the Google Chrome Web Store. 



Ben Hawley


Esrael Alem


Matthew Butler


Ben Hawley (Marketing & Communications Director - CALM) has spent the majority of his career working in agencies with clients including TFL, ITV, Warner Brothers, Live Nation, Puma, adidas, McDonald's, AB InBev and indeed, CALM.

He became Marketing and Communications Director of CALM in August 2017 tasked with fulfilling the potential of an increasing appetite for change and an increasing foundation for growth at the organisation.

Through a variety of award-winning campaigns, CALM’s profile has risen to huge new heights delivering impact back into the organisation - through increased revenue, awareness of CALM’s services and most importantly, in lives saved. CALM’s most succesful campaign Project 84 resulted in the appointment of the world’s first Minister for Suicide Prevention and in 2019, CALM were recognised as ‘Marketer of the Year’ and the UK Effies with Project 84 winning the Grand Prix.

Matthew Butler & Esrael Alem  are a senior creative duo at adam&eve who pride themselves in being on the forefront of culture. They’ve written award-winning ideas and have worked with a range of brands from adidas, to Met Police, to Kwiff and beyond.

“Our entire ethic around making creative work is to articulate a more profound understanding of the people we are talking to - with our finger on the pulse of what people are talking about and who and what is shaping culture, whilst being in centre of all of those conversations.”

Between them, they write for films, music and brands. And the Alem-directed ‘HBK: The Prequel’ inspiring memes with over 2 million views.

5 key takeaways from the interview:

1. Embrace the alternative positives
While the current situation has thrown its fair amount of curveballs, there are (dare we say it ) improvements to business practices remote working can have. “It was a bit more collaborative than it would be if you were in the office,” said Esrael Alem. The accessibility of the teams, personnel means we shouldn’t feel that everything we’re currently doing differently is a pale imitation of the old normal. 

2. Be nimble
“By the time you’ve thought too hard about something the moment has passed, people have moved on and the conversation has changed.” Ben Hawley from CALM said how the current circumstances allowed him to move a lot quicker. Often, he said, decisions could be bogged down in a lot of back and forth. But because the current situation demands action, and fast, it means creativity can often reach the consumer undiluted. As Ben said, “Don’t overthink it.”

3. Empower the consumer
“The COVID blocker gives people more autonomy over things they see and don’t see. That autonomy is important right now.” Matthew Butler emphasised how important it was to give people a tool to make a difference in their own lives. Esrael added to this point, saying that offering something for people to incorporate into their daily routine could spell the future of advertising. As consumers change, their expectations on advertisers will do too. 

4. Define your role in times of COVID
“It was really pivotal for us to find our place, and define our right to play in COVID. This was a really good vehicle for doing that.” Ben Hawley said that CALM experienced a huge increase in calls to their helpline in the early months of the pandemic. But it nevertheless required them to think of the larger role they had to play in supporting people. It was his observation that reappraising the role you have to play in such times is crucial, so you can make the greatest impact possible.

5. Reap the benefits of a good relationship
We’re big fans of good relationships for a reason. Not because it makes those tricky conversations easier, but because during the current climate we’re seeing the real value of transparency and support come into force. The partner element of partnerships has really come to the fore in recent months, and as Ben Hawley said of adam&eveDDB, “They understand our organisation implicitly.” Creating work at speed; work that resonates on a higher level, requires a team that not only gets one another, but isn’t afraid to tell hard truths.  

Read the BITE Focus for this episode

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