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German government counted cost of domestic violence with ‘What’s your number?’ campaign

Edelman Germany won the ‘Public sector or public affairs’ category at The Drum Awards for PR 2021 with its ‘What’s your number?’ campaign in Germany. Here, the team behind the powerful winning entry reveal the behind-the-scenes secrets of this successful project...

The challenge

One in three German women will experience physical or psychological violence in their lifetime. This means we all know at least one woman affected. On top of this, 96 percent of Germans condemn violence against women, but few actively oppose it as the conversation is taboo.

The Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth wanted to motivate people to stand up against all forms of domestic and sexualised violence. Their aim was to strengthen people and help them overcome their doubts, while fighting against violence at the source. They engaged Edelman to put this topic at the forefront of the public discourse.

Key objectives included:

  • Break the taboo and get people talking about gender-based violence.
  • Promote awareness of the issue with a campaign opposing violence against women.
  • Offer hands-on help and recommendations to support people experiencing violence.
  • Become the top news story of the day in German media.

The strategy

Gender-violence awareness campaigns tend to center around triggering images of victims, intended to have an emotional impact on the viewer. Evidence suggests, however, that we can become numb to these images and even tend to categorise such images (and therefore campaigns) as being for 'others', rather than ourselves. Such campaigns may even make things worse, by reinforcing the powerlessness of ‘victims’ and the strength of abusers.

We had to do something different.

Edelman Germany, decided to apply maths to a problem where emotions had failed... so we asked Germans 'What's Your Number?' and confronted our audiences with the real hard numbers of women they personally know (statistically) who will experience domestic violence.

We calculated the numbers for 22 German cities, and projected them in giant letters on buildings in prominent places. Visitors to our website could sync their Facebook data to see the number of their friends affected.

The 'What's Your Number?' concept was the earned idea that would sit behind the entire campaign. By drawing out this shocking number and making it personal, we knew that we would be able to drive the message home for our audience and generate media attention. The message was personal and immediate, without being sentimental.

The campaign

First, we got all major German aid organizations to unite in the message: Violence against women affects us all. In addition to the affected people, we raised awareness in their environment and encouraged them: recognize violence and act. There are opportunities for everyone to take action against violence.

Next, we installed guerrilla-illuminations in 22 cities nationwide, projecting a number onto buildings to catch people’s attention. Then, on International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women we revealed the number of women in that city affected by violence.

During the German Federal Criminal Police press conference we gave the media a breakdown of their female audience, including how many would be affected. Minister Dr. Giffey shared her number and invited politicians to calculate their constituencies’ numbers.

Finally, we released an online film to the public and collaborated with celebrities and activists, who published their numbers and calls-to-action, mixing our own film with personal stories, and amplified on YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

The entire campaign was delivered in just six weeks, with extraordinary results.

The results

  • Digital campaign: 11 Million Reach.
  • More than 100,000 unique visitors went to the campaign microsite in the first 3 weeks.
  • Organizations and companies have offered their partner support for the initiative.
  • More than 1,700 media reports/contributions.
  • On the evening of November 25, our topic was the top news: “Tagesschau” at 8:15 p.m., “heute magazin” and in the evening news of private broadcasters: RTL, Sat.1, VOX, RTL 2 or Kabel 1.
  • National newspapers reported: FAZ, Süddeutsche, BILD, taz and all regional daily newspapers, radio stations and numerous online media.
  • The topic ran in the media until December.
  • Counselling centres like the help line "Violence against women" and the women's emergency calls recorded a significant increase in requests for help after the start of our campaign.
  • Our campaign film became the most watched film of all time on the YouTube and Facebook channel of the Federal Ministry, reaching 850,000 people.

This project was a winner at The Drum Awards for PR 2021. To find out which Drum Awards are currently open for entry, click here.

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