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You are implicated by this new sexual assault PSA #WhoWillYouHelp

You are implicated by this new sexual assault PSA #WhoWillYouHelp

**Trigger Warning: Sexual Assault**

Here’s one that I think gets social marketing right:

This new campaign from the Government of Ontario, Canada, doesn’t target the perpetrators of sexual violence, but instead reminds bystanders that they have a responsibility to speak up and stop it.

I have a bias towards this kind of approach, having used it for our agency’s social marketing campaigns against elder abuse ,  drunk driving, and street harassment over the past few years. But I truly believe in it.

Good social marketing does more than raise awareness; it gives a specific target audience an achievable and tangible action they can take to make a difference. In this case, it addresses those who witness acts of abuse, at parties, in the workplace, at school and in a bar. Not all harassment and assault happens in public view, but a shocking amount of it does.

Does this campaign break the modern rule of “thou shall not shame“? I don’t think so.

First of all, it does not engage in victim-blaming. It is very clear in all scenarios who is at fault. Each situation is designed to make the viewer feel repulsed. So when one of the perpetrators breaks the fourth wall and thanks the viewer for his or her assumed inaction, that revulsion is briefly transferred to him or her. That’s attention-getting. But then, before the viewer can shut out the bad feelings, the ad turns around and makes him or her feel like a hero just for doing something that should come naturally: To speak out, report, or intervene. It’s a strong reinforcement.

It’s part of a government initiative to reform what Ontario’s Premier, Kathleen Wynne, calls the “culture of misogyny.” It’s about time.



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