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The story behind Avast's idea to use George Orwell's 1984 to educate on cyber surveillance

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By Awards Analyst, writer

December 8, 2022 | 4 min read

The Romans for Avast won at The Drum Awards for PR 2022 in the B2B category for its 2021 George Orwell campaign. Here, we find out more about what went into this mass education campaign.

Avast's 2021 George Orwell campaign

Avast's 2021 George Orwell campaign

Avast tasked The Romans to remind the public to care more about their right to privacy, anonymity, and free speech. To do this they adapted George Orwell's 1984 to make it relevant for 2021 and tapped Doctor Who actor Matt Smith to recite the audiobook version.

The brief

Hope and Glory were asked to deliver Avast a campaign that shone a light on the insidious side of cyber and educated people about the risks of surveillance and how we should protect our privacy online.

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The campaign needed to reach a broad internet audience and not just the digitally naive. The business world was also crucial to target as Avast explained: "Hack one person, get one bank account. Hack a business and get hundreds of payroll details, IP, and data."

The idea

George Orwell’s 1984 is a text that is globally recognizable and first coined the phrase Big Brother. With this in mind, The Romans decided to change the mention of 1984 to 2021 to show how Orwell's predictions came true.

Luckily, 1984's copywrite was also due to expire in 2021 meaning Avast could avoid paying for the rights and the various legal fees. The Romans adapted the cover and the main body of the text this required both a physical new book and also new digital versions.

A kindle edition was created along with an audiobook and podcast. Matt Smith voiced the audio editions alongside featuring in a video about the campaign and accompanying photo assets.

The Romans worked with the illustrator Rodrigo Coral, who has ties to Edward Snowden, to redesign the cover. The book also received a new forward to hammer home how Orwell's dystopian past is happening now in 2021.

The results

2021 George Orwell picked up 131 pieces of press coverage along with over 4.6m online views and helped deliver more than 37,000 audiobook downloads. The campaign managed to get coverage in B2B publications but also crossed over to the tech titles, and the consumer press. A real win for the campaign was that it managed to land its key message “Avast shows that Orwell’s dystopian predictions have come true in 2021” into all press.

This campaign was a winner at The Drum Awards for PR 2022. You can see all the winners here. The Drum Awards for Marketing are currently open for entry. Find out how you can enter now.

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