South African Salvation Army Advertising Campaign Becomes Worldwide Phenomenon // Mar 6, 2015

An innovative Salvation Army campaign in South Africa to raise awareness of domestic abuse has taken social media by storm. Only a few hours after a hard-hitting advert was published, the social media reach had hit more than 16 million people, with no signs of a slow-down.

At the end of February this year, millions of people passed their opinion on the colour of a strangely lit dress – quickly known simply as 'the dress' or #thedress – with a majority convinced it was white and gold and most of the rest recognising that it was actually blue and black. Scientists from around the world were called upon to explain the phenomenon and share their expertise on why people see colour differently. (Click here for the full story.)

Advertising agency Ireland Davenport took the worldwide interest and used it cleverly to highlight the issue of domestic violence in South Africa, while also publicising The Salvation Army's work with abused and trafficked women. They photographed an image of a ‘bruised’ model wearing a copy of #thedress. The Army’s advert, published in the Cape Times newspaper this morning adds the headline ‘Why is it so hard to see black and blue’, along with text saying: 'The only illusion is if you think it was her choice. One in six women are victims of abuse. Stop abuse against women.' A phone number for anyone needing support is also included.

The Salvation Army operates two residential care centres in South Africa – in Cape Town and Johannesburg – which provide for the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of abused women. The programmes help them to recover from their abusers and leave as independent, confident women.

Major Carin Holmes, Public Relations Secretary for The Salvation Army’s Southern Africa Territory, explains: ‘Awareness of the problems of domestic abuse and human trafficking is key for us, and the reaction to this campaign is overwhelming. More than 3,000 Tweets an hour shows the desperateness of the situation – domestic violence and human trafficking needs to be stopped.’

The major also revealed that Ireland Davenport did not charge The Salvation Army for its services.

Reaction to the campaign has become a trending topic on Twitter, with voices including fashion magazine Cosmopolitan, New York’s Adweek and youth-orientated UK news site BBC Newsbeat. TV and radio stations around the world are also running items about the campaign.


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