Skip to main content

Project Re-search: The Blue Whale Challenge

Project Re-search: The Blue Whale Challenge

About this initiative

India is the suicide capital of the world. yet, mental health is still something Indian society sees no ‘need’ to learn about. It wasn’t surprising, then, that when the blue whale phenomenon reached India, our ways of reacting to it was close-ended & knee-jerk. the game was ‘banned’ & sensational misinformation around it spread like wildfire. even after the noise faded, few were aware that poor mental health in children was one of the main reasons behind the game’s alleged success. the colour of grey cells, a psychotherapy institution, wanted Indian adults to see this connection.

SDG 3, which aims to ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all ages, regards mental health as a priority. This is because mental disorders as depression can lead to suicide and nearly 800,000 suicides occurred worldwide in 2015, with men about twice as likely to commit suicide as women.


The Project Re-search campaign was made up of a series of Google search ads on ‘blue whale’ related keywords, that changed your Google search. Dentsu agency Webchutney identified top 22 blue whale keywords and only targeted ads to users that were above 18 years of age and were searching Google with these keywords. The ads led users to a landing page which introduced them to different mental health conditions that the challenge could have been feeding off, like anxiety, depersonalization, depression and bullying. This was then linked to another ‘Google search’ for each of those conditions which meant that each search into the Blue Whale phenomenon ended up being a search for mental health conditions.

Thousands of Indian adults who were about to simply read a sensational story, ended up opening their eyes to mental health instead, through a simple Google search. The ads received an 8% click-through-rate - almost triple of the google average - and Google’s data shows searches for 6 out of 7 mental health related keywords have gone up at least by 15 percent and up to 100 percent, which was their highest ever in India. The initiative is now crowdfunding to keep the ads running and has, in a real way, orchestrated the rise of search volumes for mental health in India.