Tackling gender violence

It’s a terrible (and often overlooked) fact that rates of domestic abuse are seeing a sharp rise while the world is under lockdown. The international press recently reported that, in the Hubei province at the heart of the initial virus outbreak in central China, domestic violence reports to the police more than tripled in one county alone.

We also heard reports of surges in cases at state-run domestic violence drop-in centres and calls to dedicated hotlines everywhere from Brazil to Cyprus. In a collection of timely examples, we take a look back at recent work that tackled the sensitive, and often taboo, global epidemic from all angles.

Soccer Song for Change, AB InBev, Ogilvy Cape Town, 2018

Gender-based violence increases after major football games (particularly violence perpetrated by supporters of the losing team) and alcohol is often a factor. For South Africa, the two biggest games are the Soweto derbies between Orlando Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs. Carling Black Label understood that this presented an opportunity to bring much-needed attention to the issue.

#NoExcuse brought a choir of mothers and daughters to the football stadium and sparked a national movement. South Africa’s biggest beer brand stunned football fans when an all-female choir hijacked the national anthem to highlight abuse with the soccer song for change. It was this unconventional, but impactful, televised launch that resulted in an ongoing debate.

The non-traditional platform helped the brand to talk directly to a sold-out stadium full of beer-drinkers. And with the game being highly televised and the message widely shared, they managed to reach a greater audience than the 2010 World Cup Football opening ceremony and match.

The arrestingly powerful message was heard by the 80,000 people in the stadium and sparked global conversation, with an overall reach of 45 million. Footballing legend Drogba even gave it a shout out on Twitter. #NoExcuse was rolled out in five other countries, and the special parliament that was formed to tackle the issue continues to debate gender-based violence legislation.

Look at Me, Women’s Aid, WCRS London, 2015


WCRS recognised that domestic violence campaigns typically target either the perpetrators, or the victims of the crime. They found a third approach and chose to address the people around the victims: those who turn a blind eye to the problem. An important piece of work for Women’s Aid brought a key insight to life: friends, family and bystanders are also accountable and by turning away from domestic violence, we fail to stand up to it.

In this outdoor piece of work, people around the victims (those who often turn a “blind eye”), were confronted with an image of a battered woman in the form of a digital billboard. The interactive screen used facial recognition to determine whether people were prepared to look at and face up to domestic violence. The more people looked, the more the woman recovered. It was a powerful use of interactive outdoor that reminded the public not to look away.

The results were phenomenal. The average time people spent looking at the posters was 349% higher than the previous average measured across the same sites. Journalists and news crews from 20 countries covered the piece of work, reaching 326.9 million people. Those who heard about the piece of work took to social media in droves, with 86.7 million impressions on Twitter alone. The response meant much-needed global attention. People were prompted to confront society’s tacit acceptance, and the work showed the world that we all play a role in eradicating domestic violence.

The Not So Beautiful Game, Women’s Aid, Wunderman Thompson London, 2018


In the UK, reported incidents of domestic violence shoot up by 38% when England loses a match. In a hard-hitting digital, OOH and print piece of work, traditional fan rituals were subverted to remind people that there’s a darker side to football matches, and that there is always support for those who need it.

The makers hijacked the fiercely patriotic language of fan-culture to create a provocative piece of work, forcing the world to rethink what the World Cup means for domestic abuse victims.

Mass reach and shares on social were the aim: to spread the message far and wide. Influencers and individuals with large followings and connection to the topic shared the posts, reaching more and more people organically. This reactive, genuinely shareable and news-worthy piece of work made headlines across 100+ news platforms, in over 13 countries. The Not So Beautiful Game created organic news headlines in more than 13 countries across the world, across more than 100 news platforms including: BBC, ABC, Huffington Post, and The New York Post.

Social awareness for NCDV increased by 1,250% and, over the campaign period, calls for help to NCDV increased by 19.6%.

Tecate Gender Violence, Nomades Mexico City, 2017


“If you are not a man who respects women, you are not one of us” is a brave position for one of Mexico’s popular and macho beer brands to take. Yet Tecate took this stance in a piece of work that aimed to challenge what a “real man” is in a piece of work that poked fun at traditional views on masculinity, in favour of men who treat women respectfully.

In taking a stand, they lost short-term sales. This was a true example of a brand putting its money where its mouth is and following through on an important issue: investing money in grassroots Domestic Violence organisations and NGOs.

The message was amplified through the brand’s digital platforms, generating significant exposure in earned media. And the impact during the first 48hrs from launch was overwhelming: +27M views. They also achieved coverage in more than 150 media publications in digital, print and radio from national and international sources reaching 65 countries.

And, of course, the most important result: an increase of 75% of women asking for help from the partner organisations.

Vodafone Red Light Application, Young & Rubicam Istanbul, 2015


One in every three women in Turkey is the victim of domestic violence. In a culture where family comes above anything else, many women would not feel comfortable visibly reaching out for help. Vodafone recognised that technology can be a force for good and created an app which women could use to secretly seek help. Hidden inside a flashlight app, when a woman shakes her phone, it sends a message to three people she trusts along with her exact location.

For women to become aware of the app’s existence without any compromise to their safety, it was important to maintain secrecy and details were embedded in popular female-specific videos with instructions. It was a clever initiative that sought out females in discrete spaces, including labels on lingerie, wax strips and YouTube make-up tutorials that turned into public service announcements.

In the first year, over 254,000 women downloaded the app (that’s 24% of all women with smartphones in Turkey) and the app had been activated 103,122 times. It was an important piece of technology that brought women the means to seek help without becoming unsafe. Of course, the biggest success will come in the future - when women no longer need to download the app at all.

Mistaken Love Song, Federal Government of Brazil, Artplan Brasilia, 2019


Brazil has the world’s fifth highest number of deaths of women killed by gender violence. For the Federal Government of Brazil, Artplan Brasilia picked up on an important disconnect between cultural understanding and this terrifying statistic: many women believe themselves to be in loving relationships that are in fact built on violence, distrust and fear.

In a piece of work that harnessed the cultural institution of the love song, a famous Brazilian singer launched a song that, at first, seemed to paint a picture of a couple deeply in love but turned out to have a sinister double-meaning. Listeners were forced to confront the fact that many relationships that seem to be loving are not, and it’s the small instances that often go unreported.

When the “love song” became widely known and appeared among the Top 10, a clip was released deconstructing the verses. Lines like “A love like that was 24/7 side by side”, were revealed in the clip to be about a man who controls his wife by following her on the street and sending aggressive WhatsApp messages. A new initiative began with the hashtag #youhaveavoice.

The team chose 25 November, which is the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women to amplify the piece of work. In all, 14 television stations broadcasted the 30” video 225 times. It was also shown in 1,686 movie theatres in 96 cities. 108 radio broadcasters from 9 capitals broadcast spot 6,379 times.

This piece of work contributed to an increase of 101% in the calls for the Government’s 180 hotline in December 2018, compared to the same period of 2017. In total, accounting for all views on the Internet as a whole, the spot had more than 10 million views. It had the highest peak of shares ever on a Federal Government initiative.