Are they really OK? We asked the industry how they are marking this important day

Today is R U OK? Day, a harm prevention initiative that encourages people to stay connected and have conversations that can help others through difficult times in their lives.

The past 18 months have been extremely challenging for many within the advertising, creative, media and marketing industries. Ongoing lockdowns, working from home, separation from loved ones, looming deadlines, redundancies have all taken a toll on members of the community.

To keep the conversations going, we asked a cross-section of the industry, what they are doing for R U OK? Day.

Content warning: this story discusses mental health

For those needing support contact Lifeline on 13 11 14


This year for R U OK? Day, social audio app Clubhouse will host a discussion in The Australia Club room to ask R U OK Australia?

Understanding that one conversation can change a life, today (9 September) a panel of Aussie Clubhouse creators and mental health experts will ask the all important question, and offer a platform for the local community to meaningfully connect with those who may be struggling.

Hosting the discussion will be representatives and seasoned moderators from The Australia Club. They will be joined by Therapist Nidhi Tewari, an expert in Trauma, Anxiety and EMDR, as well as Saxon Phipps, Founder of Year 13, an organisation dedicated to improving the health and happiness of all young Australians.

Clubhouse is a new type of social network based on voice that is bringing people around the world together to talk, listen and learn from each other in real-time. Creating genuine connections through audio, Clubhouse is the ideal platform for a conversation that aims to ease feelings of loneliness and uncertainty.

The discussion is on at 7.30pm AEST on the Clubhouse tonight.

Half Dome: People and culture lead, Lisa Lie

“Independent media agency Half Dome has evolved R U OK? Day to R U OK? every day for its staff as R U OK? Day on 9 September serves as a national reminder of the mental health crisis and silent pandemic COVID-19 has triggered.

One in five people will experience mental illness in their lifetime and Half Dome is calling on the industry to check in with one another as lockdowns in Australia’s eastern states roll on.

The past 18 months have been stressful, so it is important we offer support to those around us and stay connected. We have evolved from R U OK? today to R U OK? every day.  It’s about how you have the follow up the conversation when someone says they are not ok. They are the skills we are equipping our staff with.

More than 80% of Half Dome’s staff are trained Mental Health First Aiders who are equipped with the skills to cope when someone says, ‘no, I’m not ok.’

In 2021, Half Dome’s priorities have been to provide as much certainty to its staff as possible and to build connections away from the digital, which has included face-to-face connection when and how restrictions allow.

Our managing partners are as much a part of these conversations as our analysts and I’m proud we’ve created an environment where it’s ok to admit you’re not ok and we are arming our people with the skills to respond to that.”

Innocean: CEO, Jasmin Bedir

“R U OK? has become an urgent question we’re asking on a weekly, if not daily, basis at the moment. Mental health has the highest priority in our business at the moment and our sunshine hour breaks and our monthly Sunshine day are there to address this.

We’re giving all employees an hour a day called ‘sunshine hour’. Every day 1.30pm to 2.30pm is blocked in the diaries and it’s an additional hour of time as we’ve noted that home schooling and never ending work calls start to take a mental toll.

This has been so greatly received by our staff that we have decided to have an entire sunshine day every couple of months.”

IPG Mediabrands (Initiative and UM)

Initiative was the first media agency to be certified as a Mental Health Gold skilled workplace in February of 2019 and ensure these milestones aren’t one-off moments.

In 2021 Initiative introduced Mental Fitness days – a day off each month for our people to focus on building their mental fitness. We’ve implemented learnings from our partners at Gotcha4life and developed a series of mental fitness exercises for our people.

Specifically to recognise R U OK? Day Initiative has paired people in isolation (opt-in) from our markets with others in their areas so they can meet for COVID safe exercise and check-ins.

UM had a guest speaker talking about their own mental health journey for normalisation and to keep the conversation going. UM-ers will also have an opportunity to participate in a masterclass “Mental Fitness Hijackers – they could be lurking in your food” and promoting Formscore Today to teams that want to try it out to keep the conversation alive post R U OK? Day.

Man of Many 

Australian Men’s Lifestyle publication Man of Many has today launched The Mental Health Hub, an inclusive initiative that provides extensive resources and insights aimed at curbing the country’s burgeoning mental health concerns.

The dedicated content hub provides a series of innovative stories and features that arm readers with the tools to tackle the current wave of uncertainty. With insights and advice from some of the country’s leading clinical psychologists, mental health professionals and sports scientists, The Mental Health Hub houses evidence-based solutions and tips for breaking the cycle of anxiety and depression.

The latest initiative comes in response to the challenging circumstances many Australians currently find themselves in.

With Sydneysiders approaching three straight months under stay at home orders and Victoria notching up over 200 days in lockdown, the lasting impacts of isolation are starting to be realised.

M&C Saatchi: Group CEO, Justin Graham

“R U OK? is a much bigger focus than just today, it’s an everyday action, especially considering the current climate and the cumulative impact of circumstances over the past 18 months.

Over the past 12 weeks we’ve launched a programme of Weekday Wellbeing, wrapping up the initiatives that exist in our business and introducing many more to ensure a holistic approach to the wellbeing and safety of our team.

These initiatives vary from daily meeting free hours across the group to ensure everyone is having an enforced break, weekly guided meditations, yoga, or workout sessions, digital detox days in lieu to unlimited counselling sessions through our employee assistance program. We are encouraging our staff to take personal leave if and when they need it, providing increased flexibility for vaccination appointments and recovery time, and also asking people to respect others’ choices to work when it works for them.

Kicking off on R U OK? Day is another new initiative. Human performance specialist – Sean Hall from EnergX will be running a 10 Day Energy Masterclass for all 500 of us. The masterclass will provide our team with the tools to proactively prevent burnout and help raise energy levels, focus and resilience.

As much as this is for our people, we also loved the idea that these skills can be ‘paid forward’ to also help their families, friends and wider networks.”

Gift box from MediaCom


To mark R U OK? Day the MediaCom office will be closed on 10 September to give everyone a chance to ask those around them R U OK?

As well as this, Culture Captains in each market have sent a care package to every MediaCommer across all markets, Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. The agency has partnered with Snack Proud, an Australian-owned company delivering health focused, functional foods to the workplace to excite staff about making a healthier choice and help them achieve their goals. A total of 213 boxes were sent out.

PHD Group Australia: CEO, Mark Jarrett

“PHD Australia is already accredited by Mental Health First Aid Australia as a Gold Standard skilled workplace with 25% of our people trained as Mental Health First Aiders, including all of our national leadership team.

Educating our team and equipping them to be having these conversations helps create a safe environment, remove the stigma around mental health and promote conversation.

For us R U OK? Day is really a continuation of that, encouraging PHD’ers to stay connected and have conversations that can help others through difficult times in their lives.

We know it can be nerve racking to start the conversation, so our efforts are focussed on educating our people to be skilled and feel comfortable in asking R U OK? and we are inviting everyone to a webinar to learn when and how to ask R U OK? and asking all of our staff to call one person in their life that might need a call.

Year around, we holistically support wellbeing and mental health, recently we have been working closely with wellbeing coaches providing one-on-one wellbeing meetings to all of our people.

Throughout spring and summer, we are running workout and step challenges to promote exercise and giving the whole agency half a day off every month to go and spend time outdoors and with people close to them.”


Throughout September, Pinterest Australia is partnering with R U OK? Day and The Indigo Project to feature inspirational content on the Today Tab in Australia.

The Indigo Project is a Sydney-based psychologist practice that thinks creatively about mental health and unique ways to manage stress, to create positive and actionable Idea Pins focused on mental health. Along with its supportive and inspirational content, they’ve also helped Australians understand how to have conversations with friends around an often taboo subject, mental health.

Pinterest also offers emotional well-being activities developed by emotional health experts that users can access from the Pinterest app. The prompt to explore these resources appears when people search for things like “stress quotes,” “work anxiety” or other terms that indicate they might be feeling down.

Idea Pins on the platform aim to invite Pinterest users to prioritise their mental health and wellbeing, even just for little pockets throughout the day, with self-care and anxiety management tips.

Publicis Groupe

This year, R U OK? Day initiatives will be led by Publicis Groupe’s agency brands, so that activities can align to each agencies’ culture and areas of focus.

At a group level, there is a month-long mental health focus of events and activities encircling R U OK? Day and leading up to World Mental Health Day. Publicis will be hosting online events with guest speakers including Andy Wright, co-chair of Mentally Healthy Change Group; and Beyond Blue speaker, Tim Hoopmann. It is also ramping up virtual wellbeing classes, including Pilates, HIIT training, Mindfulness, Yoga and Meditation.

Herd MSL: Is sharing R U OK collateral on the four conversation steps to navigate a conversation steps to navigate a conversation. They are encouraging staff to pick up the phone to connect with a loved one (peer, family member, friend etc) to check in.

It will be sharing a self-care checklist, and launching and R U OK? Day Challenge: “Show us where you go, or what you do to get your groove back. What’s your happy place?” Staff are encouraged to take pics and share on socials.

Leo Burnett:  Has blocked out time in everyone’s diaries this morning for a Coffee & Connect. Ie. phone someone and have a chat with someone you haven’t spoken to since lockdown to see how they are going.

Performics Mercerbell:  Rather than just on the day, Performics Mercerbell have an entire ‘RU OK Week’ Agenda planned.  Free R U OK?  Day *lunch on Performics Mercerbell and encouraging staff to do a comfort food cook up at home. (*a $25 ubereats voucher will be sent to staff – and are encouraging staff to log off emails, and Teams chat to take a break and enjoy their meal).

It is also encouraging a Walk & Talk session – which is having staff set aside a 45 min slot to get outside and connect with a friend, family member or colleague (staff are free to allocate this to a time that suits them).

Publicis Sapient Australia: Is supporting and encouraging people to take their pandemic leave (on day VACCation leave for vaccination, and three days ‘Covid Care Leave’).  It also has over ten staff currently completing Mental health First Aid Training. The agency also gave all team members a $100 Perkbox vouchers to get a treat, and to help them through lockdown.

Starcom: Will have a meeting-free day on R U OK? Day. The intent is to allow staff the time and space to focus on resetting mental health and checking in with teams, loved ones, a media partner or client.

They will send staff a ‘Hey You’ voucher on R U OK? Day so staff can have a coffee/tea & cake and have a meaningful conversation.

They will also have activities throughout the day: Yoga, meditation, a lockdown walk, and a team activity.

Spark Foundry: Are giving $20 per person to go out and expense a coffee and morning tea with someone in their house or bubble, to check in on themselves and others to make sure they’re doing okay. They’ve equipped them with some R U OK? resources if someone isn’t doing okay, so they can support someone during the conversation.

Zenith:  Message from CEO to staff discussing the day, its importance in our current circumstances, and highlighting Employee Assistance program available to everyone (24/7counselling service).  The leadership has blocked out a time in everyone’s calendar to allow them to use that time to check-in with a colleague, friend or family member and ask R U OK?

Southern Cross Austereo (SCA)

CEO Grant Blackley has encouraged all SCA people to call a colleague today, someone they don’t ordinarily speak to day-to-day, and check in on them. A simple reminder not to underestimate the power of making it known to someone that they’re important to you and asking them how they are.

The SCA leadership team have also offered each employee the opportunity to look after their own mental health by taking an R&R day for themselves, of their choosing, during the month of September – and sharing with their team what they’ve done to rest and recharge.

And later today, the full SCA team will come together for a virtual acoustic performance from a very special guest offering some welcome live entertainment to close out the day.


For R U OK? Day this year, TikTok will be running a virtual staff morning tea, hosted by team member Lucas Goldman, who in his spare time runs a popular mental health podcast. The event will feature guest speaker, Hugo Toovey, from 25StayAlive, a global movement which educates and inspires younger people to be proactive with their health.

Rebecca Waddell, Senior Legal Counsel at TikTok Australia and New Zealand, who also leads the platforms’s local For You employee group, which is focussed on the wellbeing of its people, said: “RU OK Day is always important, but it’s even more important this year with so many of us working through lockdown and struggling to find time to check in with each other. Hosting an RU OK Day event is just one of the things we’re doing to support staff with their mental health.”

Tribal Australia: managing director, Davy Rennie

This lockdown is different. The sense of novelty is absolutely gone. People are tired. They’re lonely. They’re scared, and they miss the parts of agency life that make it one of the best industries in the world. 

Those parts aren’t gone, they’ll be back, but it’s just another thing that makes this lockdown hard. Being together creates and galvanises culture, but in absence of the physical, we are trying to keep the sense of unity going in different ways. 

Every Monday, the whole of DDB Group starts the week together. Someone takes us around their home, and shares a light-hearted news update about what’s going on across the business for the week.

 We’re checking in on our collective and individual mental health, sticking with the things that are working, and changing the things that aren’t. But the one thing that is a mandatory for us is transparency. We are being honest about our individual struggles with isolation, and encouraging people to be comfortable in saying they aren’t okay, and maybe need to take the day to themselves or use their dedicated slumber days. We want our friends and colleagues to make lockdown work for them. We want them to get out, not chain themselves to their desks, and set boundaries.

 The one thing we’ve learned from last time is that there isn’t a formula or manual for this, and we can’t expect to always get it right. But as long as we try, have the right intent, and keep our people at the heart of our decisions, we’ll get it right more days than we don’t.

Diversified Communications (Mumbrella parent company) –  Head of people and culture, Nicolle Zuzarte

“We have been very focused on what we can do to meaningfully support our peoples’ wellbeing at Diversified, now, more so than ever, given the challenges we all face working remotely and being in lockdown for such a long period in Sydney and Melbourne, where nearly all our people are based.

It takes a toll in various forms, and we are very conscious of that. We have been communicating to our people about holistic health – body, mind and spirit and encouraging people to take stock and look after all three aspects of their health. We support our people to do this in a few practical ways including use of our Employee Assistance Program, by hosting virtual sessions that provide opportunities to connect and share what we find challenging – as well as through our people policies, including flexible working and utilising leave appropriately for all aspects of health needs, not just physical health.

On ‘R U Ok’? Day on 9th September, we will remind folks to continue to check in on each other. We will share information and content to enable people to know how best to engage, signs to be aware of and tips on how approach each other with intent. Our people care about each other inherently and so this will be a welcome focus to help each other in these challenging times.”


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