Media: Strategy Analysis - Tackling domestic violence in private

Brand: COI Communications/Home Office; domestic violence helpline initiative Clients: Catherine Dey, Chris Kirby, Sharon Sawers (Home Office); Carol Alexander (COI) Brief: Raise awareness of a new single telephone number offering help and support to victims of domestic violence Target audience: Victims of domestic violence AGENCIES Media: Stuart Sullivan-Martin, Jenny Boyden, Mediaedge:cia Creative: Megan Thompson, Holly Smith, Jo Bacon, RKCR/Y&R Others: RMG:Connect


Social issues often provide the most challenging briefs. They can also provide the opportunity for communications to make a real difference to people's lives. In December 2003, the domestic violence charities Women's Aid and Refuge launched - with Home Office support - a new telephone number and call-centre offering help and support to victims of domestic violence. The purpose was to offer a simple path to seek help, while rationalising the different helpline numbers already in operation.

Initially, the communications challenge appeared straightforward: to raise awareness of this new number among women and encourage victims to pick up the phone. However, it soon became clear that this brief required a special approach for a very specific and vulnerable audience. Mediaedge:cia needed to be careful not to aggravate already difficult situations.

Two insights from qualitative research among former domestic violence victims shaped the communications strategy. The first insight was: "It is a big step for victims to identify themselves as victims." Communications had to drive empathy and understanding on a one-to-one level, rather than act as a springboard for a formal public announcement.

The second insight was: "He used to go through everything, so I couldn't even have a piece of paper or an address book." The controlling nature of abusive partners dictated the need to be discreet and offer the opportunity to retain the number for later use.

Rather than make an overt announcement broadcasting the number to the public, Mediaedge:cia chose to have "private conversations" - thousands and thousands of them. This approach - apparently contrary to the aim of widely publicising this government initiative - contradicted the received wisdom about how to launch a helpline number, but allowed the charities to reach their target audience without causing more problems for them.


- Radio: A national radio campaign kicked off the launch of the helpline, upweighted during morning coffee time and the afternoon school-run when partners were at work.

- Magazines: Women's magazines carried the message to women when they would be alone and reflective.

- Outdoor: Posters ran the message on the back of cubicle doors in women's toilets - with special tear-off sticky notes carrying the helpline number.

- In-store: Shopping receipts carried the message - the ideal "deniable" environment. Partners are less likely to suspect a woman of having sought out information about a refuge if it appears on a piece of paper she has acquired during her normal domestic routine.

- Promotions: Bounty packs spoke to expectant mums (a high-risk group), and the promotions agency RMG:Connect recruited Top Shop to put posters in its changing rooms and use the receipts for customer purchases.


On a relatively small budget, advertising awareness reached 44 per cent (60 per cent among 16- to 24-year-olds). Spontaneous awareness of the single phone line among the core audience of 16- to 24-year-old C2DE women increased to 33 per cent from 18 per cent, pre-rationalisation. The campaign has now entered its second year.

THE VERDICT - Geoff Seely partner, Tonic

Our industry is often perceived as being the root of all the problems in today's society (obesity, debt, etc), so it's easy to feel self-conscious when chatting with friends and acquaintances from "the outside". As such, it must have been very rewarding for Mediaedge:cia to work on a campaign with such potential for changing the lives of its target audience. Not many of us get the chance to really make a difference; the pressure to deliver on this brief makes the challenge of delivering year-on-year widget growth of 3 per cent seem pretty mundane.

What I liked about the work was that it didn't try to complicate the brief. The strategy of "private conversations" works well because all of the executional ideas work around the environment in which they are transmitted.

That said, I would ask whether it could have been even more defined.

Creating reams of strategy charts is all well and good, but the real skill in our business is converting strategy into ideas that really work, as opposed to being post-rationalised. Today's media agencies often feel they need to supply whizz-bang ideas in order to deliver a "communications" plan. There's not a lot of whizz-bang about this particular strategy, but Mediaedge:cia has created a solid campaign that balances the objective of reaching a large number of the target audience without betraying the campaign's core strategy.

I would question whether magazines and Bounty packs truly deliver "privacy" and whether Top Shop was the perfect retail partnership, but both elements reveal a nice lateral approach. The only surprise was that the plan didn't extend beyond what was delivered. When you think about it, there is a wealth of appropriate opportunities to deliver on the strategy. SMS or extending the shopping receipts to cashpoints and bank statements would have delivered even more truly private moments.

It seems a shame that a campaign with such a good cause at its heart has been measured on ad-awareness alone. Perhaps we can all get a better name for ourselves by creating campaigns that help save a life. That's real accountability.

Perhaps I'll call Millward Brown.

SCORE: 4/5.