“Thea” is a 12-year-old Norwegian girl who blogged about her wedding plans. Engaged to a 37-year-old man, she wrote about organizing her dress, her wedding cake and her church, as well as unsettling speculations about sex and babies.
Complete with lots of selfies, the blog carried on for a month leading up to the October 11th wedding date. According to Adfreak’s David Griner, the posts went viral on social media and resulted in concerned calls to child welfare authorities in Norway.
Fortunately, it was all a hoax.
Plan International, of “Because I Am A Girl” fame, created this elaborate stealth campaign to bring the plight of the 39,000 girls under 18 who are married off every day, mostly in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, and in some parts of Latin America, the Caribbean and the Middle East. They seeded it through Thunderclap.
The blog is in Norwegian, but you can follow the story with Google Translate. It’s pretty depressing.
Plan claimed success with the campaign, at least in terms of reach:
Plan Norway has reached more than 10 million people with campaign messages, while the blog has had over 1 million unique views in Norway alone.
The campaign has now spread across the globe. Recently actor Ashton Kutcher shared the message with his 18.5 million Facebook followers, while the story has been covered by news sites – including the Huffington Post, CNN, BBC, Buzz Feed, Independent, RTL, La Republica and Scandinavian newspapers, radio and television.
As innovative cause marketing campaigns go, this one is top shelf. But it always disturbs me, as a westerner, that the tactic of bringing a “third world” issue “home” by using white people as proxies is so effective.
The reason why is obvious; we apparently have a harder time identifying with the plight of people who are different than us. It may be natural, but that doesn’t make it acceptable.
This isn’t a criticism of the Plan campaign, which was very effective in getting an emotional point across. But just the fact that they felt they needed to show a pretty, blonde, middle class girl to shock people out of complacency, when 14 million “other” girls are married off every year, says something about Norway and similar cultures (including my own in Canada). And what it says is not very nice.