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Closer Than You Think

Closer Than You Think | UN Women | TBWA
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Industry: Public interest & Non-profit
Media:TV & Cinema
Style: Minimalism

UN Women is the global champion for gender equality, working to develop and uphold standards and create an environment in which every woman and girl can exercise her human rights and live up to her full potential. Since 1989, Iceland’s National Committee of UN Women has worked towards raising local awareness of the organization’s overarching goals of meeting the needs of women worldwide.

We were familiar with successful campaigns undertaken by UN Women to increase awareness of gender-based violence outside of Iceland. And our task in the original brief was to raise awareness of the issue abroad, targeting young men through pop stars and social media influencers. But we worked with the client to broaden the demographic of men and bring the issue home to Iceland as well to amplify the message for our target audience.

Describe the cultural/social/political climate in your region and the significance of your campaign within this context

Iceland is the most gender-equal society in the world today according to the WEF Global Gender Gap Index. But this shining reputation is also the nation’s Achilles heel: many Icelanders think of gender-based violence as a problem that exists only beyond its borders—especially Icelandic men. In response, UN Women Iceland wanted to localize the HeForShe solidarity movement in an effort to bring more Icelandic men into the fight against gender-based violence not only in distant nations overseas, but also in their own backyard.

To this end, we enlisted the participation of several highly influential men from different arenas of Icelandic society—men who serve as role models, men whose voices are heeded by other Icelandic men and men who set the bar for idealized Icelandic masculinity. They include a young hip-hop star, a celebrated business leader, a football coach admired by young people, a venerated literary figure, the beloved host of a children’s show and a few everyday men. Regardless of their background, all the men shared in the same poignant, heartfelt reaction to the woman sitting in front of them, demonstrating vulnerability and empathy.

Describe the creative idea

A series of Icelandic men, both unknown faces and well-known figures from across Icelandic society, are asked to read aloud the true, uncensored stories of gender-based violence from women around the world. Upon finishing the last text they learn that the woman who handed them the texts—the Icelandic woman sitting across from them—is the woman whose story they have just finished. The impact on the men is immediate and unmistakably heartbreaking as their faces register whose story they have just uttered. The viewer, in turn, experiences the authentic emotion and vulnerability of men recognizing how close gender-based violence is to them.

In closing, viewers are directed to the website for UN Women Iceland where they can register their solidarity in condemning gender-based violence.

Describe the strategy

We started developing our strategy from the target demographic: Icelandic men from ages 18 to 65. Our main challenge was that most Icelandic men felt disconnected with the issue of gender-based violence as it is often dismissed as a problem for developing nations overseas. As such, Icelandic men, and especially middle-aged Icelandic men, have proven quite resistant to previous efforts.

Our strategy was then to find a way for Icelandic men to connect with these issues in an authentic way that would elicit a compelling, emotional response. We had to demonstrate for Icelandic men that gender-based violence is closer than you think. With a newly awakened awareness and willingness to participate in the fight against gender-based violence, the target audience is directed to take action by pledging their support on UN Women Iceland’s site and sharing the message (and video) via all social media channels.

Describe the execution

We chose to hear these stories told by the voices of men, which would speak loudly to other men. However, we did not want the campaign to be about men representing or saving women, but rather about men showing their vulnerability and an outpouring of authentic empathy for gender-based violence. To achieve this authentic emotion the men were put in a situation where they would have to confront the real woman behind a story of gender-based violence.

The media plan focused on social media and other online platforms, where we could have the greatest exposure to our target audience and benefit from viewers’ natural inclination to share such a compelling video. The Facebook video was the mainstay of the campaign, supported by YouTube and Twitter. The video also aired as a television ad for ten days to increase awareness as well as some outdoor advertisements in support of the campaign.

Describe the results/impact

In the first 24 hours the campaign had already met or exceeded its objectives and was covered by all major media outlets in Iceland. There was both tremendous discussion online and in society in general in the wake of the video.

Pledges for solidarity on UN Women Iceland site
Objective: 4,500
Outcome: 5,364

Phone fundraiser in wake of video
Objective: increase monthly donors by 300
Outcome: in 10 days over 20% of new donors in 2018 had been signed and the objective was far exceeded

Video views
Objective: 100,000 views
Outcome: 385,297 views total from Facebook, YouTube and Twitter (NB: the total population of Iceland at the time was just under 360,000 people)

Objective: 10,000 people engaging with the content on social media
Outcome: at least 21,303 or 213% over the target

Earned media
Objective: widespread media discussion
Outcome: Objective reached with 20 media outlets releasing coverage
Production Company:
Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity 2019
Shortlist Glass: The Lion for Change
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