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Will these “edgy” coaster ads just re-brutalize women? (TW: #VAW)

Will these “edgy” coaster ads just re-brutalize women? (TW: #VAW)


People are talking about this new campaign by Ogilvy & Mather, Tokyo, for the Yaocho bar chain in Japan. But there’s another conversation we need to have about campaigns that address violence.

It has become common practice to shock viewers with images of battered women. The general strategy is that violence is shocking, and by exposing it in unexpected ways we are helping promote awareness and — in the long run — positive behaviour modification.

But what about victims themselves? How will they react to seeing a bruised and bleeding woman revealed on their bar coaster, particularly if alcohol was involved in the assault?

This is where we have to bring up the concept of “triggering.”

The University of Alberta’s Sexual Assault Centre defines a psychological trauma trigger as “something that sets off a memory tape or flashback transporting the person back to the event of her/his original trauma.” We have seen trauma triggers in media for decades, in the context of war veterans with PTSD who are suddenly taken back to traumatic battle experiences by a sight, sound, or even smell. Survivors of other kinds of violence experience similar triggers.

The “TW: #VAW” in the title stands for “Trigger Warning: Violence Against Women.” It is there because I don’t want victims of violence to be re-traumatized by surprised by the “after” photos. It’s a courtesy. But bar patrons get no warning. Nor do Twitter followers of charities. Nor people walking past billboards.

Something to think about when using images of victims.

Images via AdFreak

I am Creative Director at Acart Communications, a Canadian Social Issues Marketing agency. Read more