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Doing Nothing Does Harm

Industry: Public interest & Non-profit
Style: Minimalism
Why is this work relevant for Media?

In a series of interactive YouTube videos depicting sexist behaviour ‘Doing Nothing Does Harm’ took established Google infrastructure and turned it on its head, introducing a new ‘de-targeting’ functionality on the platform by revolutionising the way users interact with YouTube ‘info cards’ (buttons). In weaponizing this otherwise benign function, we rewarded user behaviour by actually removing people from our target list once they interacted with our videos to stop what they were seeing. Those who didn’t act were served progressively worsening messages, challenging them to eventually take action to stop the sexist behaviour.


Disrespect towards women like sexist jokes, objectification and ‘inappropriate’ comments are amongst the most consistent predictors of violence towards women, but in Australia there is widespread acceptance of these behaviours and attitudes. Research informing the brief found that whilst many people would like to intervene when they see this kind of behaviour, only 14% of people admitted they would. Mostly because they simply don’t know how.

To empower and support bystanders so they are motivated and skilled to respond to these situations, we needed to create something innovative and engaging that would drive real world change – inspiring and educating these people on how to act.

Describe the creative idea/insights (30% of vote)

The experience uses five interactive videos where a man starts peppering the conversation with inappropriate and derogatory comments about women. When he makes the comment, a button appears, asking the viewer to ‘do something.’ This dictates the outcome of the interaction.

Beyond merely encouraging users to act though, the interactive experience also flipped the concept of ‘retargeting’ on its head. Whereas traditional advertising retargets users based on their interaction with the communication, our campaign ‘de-targeted’ those who interacted with our ads, rewarding viewers for pro-social behaviour with this message: THANKS FOR DOING SOMETHING TO STOP SEXIST BEHAVIOUR. YOU WON’T SEE THESE ADS AGAIN. In short, if they took action to stop the behaviour, they’d never see the ads again. In contrast, those that failed to interact would be served the ad again and again, the sexist comments worsening and the Info Cards (buttons) encouraging users to intervene becoming increasingly pointed.

Describe the strategy (20% of vote)

2015 research found that only 14% of Australians are likely to act when they see disrespect towards women. Furthermore, our consumer audit showed that men and women aged 25-35 were the most likely to recognise inappropriate sexist behaviour, but be unmotivated to act. This audit also told us that in order for this group to take action, we needed to make them feel certain that their actions would cause positive change and not make a situation worse.

Our corresponding communication strategy explored how sexist situations would ‘play out’ if intervention was normalised. By replicating real life situations online, we equated the easy action of ‘clicking’ with acting, hereby increasing the likelihood of our audience ‘doing something’ in real life.

Describe the execution (20% of vote)

YouTube info cards (buttons) appear on screen for 7 seconds, perfectly, about the same amount of time you have to act when you hear a derogatory comment, before the moment passes. But to enable this existing functionality to deliver our message, we worked directly with Google’s creative development team to implement our interactivity and ‘de-targeting’ approach.

The media agency then developed a solution to leverage the innovation with Google to ensure we maximised reach of our audience digitally, sequentially serving each worsening scenario to our target audiences until they decided to take action and ‘do something’ to stop the behaviour. If the user chooses to do nothing, they continue to be targeted with the campaign and served more scenarios where inappropriate behaviour continues, worsening with each video. If they interact to stop the behaviour, they’ll never see the ads (or the behaviour) again – just like in real life.

List the results (30% of vote)

Firstly, let’s remember that the population size of Australians aged 25-35 is 3.7 million people (Roy Morgan Single Source, Dec 2018).

Our very targeted campaign achieved a cumulative reach of 3.4 million, with over 12 million cumulative impressions. The idea achieved a further PR reach of 18.8 million and almost 10,000 card clicks. Not huge numbers by Cannes standards, however…

…a post-campaign survey found that half of those who saw the campaign said it had motivated them to act when they see disrespect towards women (Urbis Campaign Tracking Research, 2019). This response is hugely significant and a clear reaction to the relevance of the topic and the public support we have tapped into.

Also proof that with an innovative approach to media and communications, we can change people’s behaviour towards sexism, one click at a time.

Please tell us about the social behaviour and/or cultural insights that inspired your campaign

To better understand our audience, we drew on behaviour change theory. It indicated that behavioural interventions are most successful when they increase people’s motivation to act (incentives and social normalisation) and make that action easy (ability and opportunity). We needed to motivate our audience to take action, while reinforcing how easy this could be.

Recognising that there was currently a lack of incentive or any social norm around interventionist behaviour allowed us to be hyper targeted in the way we spoke to our audience. By developing an idea that was interactive and disrupted learnt digital behaviour, we were able to give people a sense of ownership for their actions and a clear example of how their intervention can only improve the situation. This in turn meant that our audience would be more likely to act in the real world.
Production Company:
Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity 2019
Shortlist Media
Social Behaviour & Cultural Insight
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