Johannesburg-based advertising agency Ireland/Davenport, which worked with The Salvation Army’s Southern Africa Territory on a domestic violence awareness campaign, has been honoured with a Webby People’s Voice Award for the initiative. The award – one of the web’s most prestigious accolades – was the result of a vote by two million members of the public.
The campaign drew on worldwide interest in an ambiguously-hued gown which had been posted on the social media platform Tumblr, with its Scottish originator asking her friends: ‘Is this dress white and gold, or blue and black?’ The optical illusion spread across the Internet to a massive global audience, due in part to its catchy hashtag #TheDress.
In conjunction with The Salvation Army’s Southern Africa Territory public relations team, Ireland/Davenport realised the potential to reach this audience with a deeper message. The creative team swiftly designed a print and online campaign – at no charge to The Salvation Army – which used a powerful photo of an apparently bruised model wearing a similar outfit, posing the question: ‘Why is it so hard to see black and blue?’ and highlighting the startling statistic that – in South Africa – one in six women is a victim of abuse. The work of The Salvation Army’s Carehaven residential centre for abused women was also featured in the campaign.
Launched on 6 March 2015, within 24 hours the campaign had been seen by 30.6 million Twitter users and additional media coverage achieved a reach of 640 million people. Data suggests that the total potential audience was 5.3 billion people in 179 countries, making #TheDress the most successful and most-shared public service campaign in South African history.
Major Carin Holmes, Public Relations Secretary for the Southern Africa Territory, explains: ‘By focusing the social media conversation at exactly the right time, Ireland/Davenport managed to create a viral sensation – asking the important question as to why the world was so interested in the colour of a dress rather than the experience of the woman wearing it.’
Ireland/Davenport Account Director David Sutherland adds: ‘We are an agency about people first and foremost. Whether this be the relationship with our client or our staff, people come first. We knew that this campaign would get some attention, however we did not expect to get the response that we did from both the South African and the global community. The response was wonderful and was something that we could have never expected.’
The Webby Awards – often referred to as the ‘Oscars of the Internet’ – received 13,000 entries from agencies in 65 countries in 2016. A full list of nominees and winners is available at webbyawards.com/winners/2016/