It achieved this through the use of experiential marketing and interactive outdoor digital technology.  

Women's Aid interactive billboard

The concept

As far as advertising goes there have historically been two choices of approach when it comes to preventing domestic abuse: target the abuser and try to make them stop, or target your message at the victim to encourage them to seek help.  

But the world has fundamentally changed in recent years. We are all more socially connected, and it was this realisation that drove Women’s Aid to take a new approach.  

That approach was geared around targeting society as a whole, with the aim of creating the social context in which domestic abuse was no longer able to continue unchecked. 

Effectively it was asking people – everyone – to understand that by noticing domestic violence rather than looking the other way they could actually help stop it. 

Overcoming a lack of funds

If the overarching goal was to get the mass-market to engage at scale with the issue of domestic violence, the biggest hurdle was a lack of budget. 

Zero budget, to be precise.  

But with any good charity campaign it’s all about bootstrapping, and that is exactly what Women’s Aid did. 

At the time, digital billboard firm Ocean Outdoor wanted to showcase the potential of its products, and were offering £100,000 of free media for the idea that best exploited the medium. 

But how to exploit such an opportunity? 

A breakthrough came when Women’s Aid learned that some of Ocean’s billboards have facial recognition cameras that track how many people are looking at them, in addition to interactive technology. 

Women’s Aid saw a chance to use the tech as a way to illustrate a message about collective responsibility. 

It designed a billboard depicting a beaten and bruised woman. As long as people ignored the screen the woman’s face would stay the same, but it would only take one person stopping to look at the screen and the woman’s bruises would begin to heal. 

The more people who stopped to look, the more the woman’s face would return to normal. 

Ocean Outdoor loved the idea and awarded the £100,000 funding to Women’s Aid. 

The work

Live video tracking

The first challenge was encouraging passers-by to interact with the billboard. 

Driven by the idea that people are drawn to their own face, Women’s Aid built a live-motion feed into the billboard that ‘registered’ people’s faces as they stopped to look and added it to a progress bar that traced the woman’s evolution from bruised to healed. 

As new people passed by they saw others being registered and it encouraged them to join in. 

Location-based mobile

It’s no secret that most people walk around with their faces in their phones these days (especially on Oxford Street, it seems), so another challenge was making those people look up and notice the billboard. 

Women’s Aid overcame this by sending push notifications via the Daily Mirror app.

Anyone who walked past a Women’s Aid billboard using the app would be sent a notification prompting them to look up at the screen. 

PR push

For any big campaign you can’t skimp on the PR.

To ensure maximum coverage, Women’s Aid wanted to launch the billboards at a time when journalists would already be pre-disposed to writing about domestic violence. 

It decided that International Women’s Day, 8 March, would be the ideal time. 

Women's Aid interactive billboard pr media coverage

Women's Aid interactive billboard pr media coverage

A helping hand

So now the tech and PR elements of the campaign were sorted, but when it came to creative the lack of budget reared its ugly head once more. 

Thankfully there was help at hand from none other than Rankin, who agreed to do the photo shoot for free. 

Several makeup artists also offered their services, and Women’s Aid was able to get everything ready without any budget and in time for its chosen launch date. 

On top of that, Ocean Outdoor was so impressed it doubled the media budget to £200,000, meaning Women’s Aid could place the billboards in 12 sites across the country rather than just London and Birmingham as originally planned.  

The results

  • Average time people spent looking at the posters was 349% higher than the previous average measured across the same sites.
  • 2,500% increase in people stopping to watch for more than 10 seconds.
  • PR reach of 326.9m people, with 70 broadcasters, newspapers and online portals covering the campaign. 
  • Media companies from all quarters of the consumer press – from Mashable and Upworthy to The Telegraph, Time Out and Huffington Post – ran the story.
  • Coverage in 20 countries, from Australia to Russia, with prime-time bulletins on American news stations NBC, CBS and ABC. 
  • 86.7m impressions on Twitter alone.