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By Hannah Bowler | Journalist

November 16, 2021 | 3 min read

BBH London has created a sinister spot aping mobile phone ads to raise awareness of tech domestic abuse for Refuge.

Released for the charity’s 50th anniversary, BBH was tasked with educating the public about the sharp rise in tech abuse cases (up 97% between April 2020 and May 2021) and communicating Refuge’s evolving role in tackling domestic abuse.

At the center of the campaign is a 40’ film that initially dupes audiences and then aims to shock them, with a sinister voiceover explaining how tech can be used to exert control in relationships. BBH creative director Kimberley Gill tells The Drum the agency wanted to make an “unexpected“ charity campaign.

To shape the creative, BBH studied abuse cases to identify the nature of tech abuse. One case study, which is featured in the ad above, tells the story of an abuser controlling his partner by turning up the heating and switching the lights on and off via his phone when he was out.

“It’s torturous and dark and the average person doesn’t have any awareness of these tactics,” says Gill.

Female influencers with younger audiences have been picked for a 24-hour Instagram Stories takeover. The influencers will then reveal at the end of the day that Refuge is behind the posts and encourage their followers to donate.

“We needed to reach a younger audience who are probably completely unaware that they are being submitted to this abuse,” says Gill.

Without a media buyer or a media budget, BBH managed to secure support with Picturehouse for its cinematic run and struck partnerships with Sky and Global. Gill adds that OOH is crucial to the campaign, saying: “It needs to be out there on the street with the other Christmas phone launches, looking and behaving like them, side-by-side.”

Being a fresh message about domestic abuse, the communication had to be clear and simple, and Gill says film, TV, poster and radio were the most appropriate for this.

To ensure the ad looked “slick and convincing from the get-go”, BBH tapped high-end producer Optical Arts. Hannah May served as executive producer for Optical Arts, with Jemima Bowers producer from BBH.

The ad concludes with a selfie of a couple, which Gill says shows there are real people behind this. “Yes, the ad is meant to lure you in and deliver a message, but there are real relationships and real women behind this.”

Ruth Davidson, who is chief executive officer of Refuge, adds: “50 years on from opening the world’s first Refuge there is sadly little to be celebrating. The numbers of women experiencing domestic abuse appear to be rising, not decreasing, and Refuge has never needed support from the public to support its work more.”

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