TBWA\Dublin Used FaceTime and Zoom to Depict the Rise of Domestic Abuse During Covid-19
By some measures, domestic abuse has soared more than 25 percent during the Covid-19 pandemic. Seeking to reassure victims that support remains available, even during lockdown, Ireland's Department of Justice & Equality produced a riveting PSA, created by TBWA\Dublin using FaceTime and Zoom.
In the :30 below, a belligerent dude interrupts a video-call between his partner and her friend, but the real horror starts after the first few seconds, when the image goes dark while disturbing audio remains:
The brief visuals followed by sounds of chaos and violence deliver an especially disturbing experience. "If your home isn't safe, support is still here," we're told at the end, as toll-free numbers and a web address for those in crisis flash across the screen.
Yes, clients and agencies have improvised of late. We've seen commercials produced via Zoom and Microsoft Teams, and a hockey playoff series staged in EA's NHL 20. But this effort, dubbed "StillHere," takes such practices to a new level of intensity at a time of rising need.
Radio spots make a similarly compelling, upsetting appeal:
Below, TBWA business director Yvonne Caplice and executive creative director Des Creedon explain how the project came together:
Muse: Were you planning a campaign pre-Covid, and then had to improvise, or did the lockdown situation inspire the work?
Yvonne Caplice and Des Creedon: We didn't have a spot planned pre Covid-19. This was a proactive job based on information we had and stats that were showing how the incidents of domestic violence had risen around the world as governments asked their citizens to stay at home during the pandemic. The crisis created the perfect storm, as women and men who are staying at home or self-isolating during this period are now much more at risk from an abusive partner. They're more exposed to their controlling behavior, verbal abuse and violence. So, this was very much borne out of our current reality. As it turned out, they had just started discussing the need for a campaign, too. We approached the client proactively and said we wanted to help.
Who is the target audience, and how will you share the message?
The target audience is women and men who are suffering from domestic violence. We also want to remind the perpetrators of these acts that the full protection of the state is available [for those they abuse], alongside the support of our justice system. The media plan includes TV, social and radio. It has also been supported by outlets in Ireland, with coverage on the national news, popular TV talk shows and current affairs radio shows.
We also produced a 15-second video for Instagram Stories which simply displays the campaign message and phone numbers. We felt that a silent lifeline like this would be more appropriate for Instagram. For any person scrolling at home, they can still receive the message and the help they need, without unnecessarily arousing the suspicion of anyone around them by having the audio on.
Can you talk about making the video—exactly what was involved?
We captured all the footage and audio through FaceTime, giving it authenticity in terms of picture and sound quality. We could have had the actors record themselves with their phones, but using FaceTime for real [on a laptop] gave it more realism and impact. The creatives were able to observe through Zoom and give notes. Our director, Rupert Morris, called the actors on FaceTime. The actors also had a Zoom call activated, so the full agency team were able to "attend" the shoot and provide additional direction—all dialing in from their homes. So the shoot was fully produced and directed from home.
In the TV spot, the visuals are exceedingly brief. Why is that?
Often, the limitations in advertising can become a spot's greatest strength. We always wanted to cut to black and not show the action on screen, for production and timing reasons, but it also felt more realistic, too. If we were there on set with a full cast and crew, I think we would have played the action in almost the exact same way. We knew how powerful it could be. The team involved and the client agreed to ditch the voiceover, which ultimately led to a very evocative ending.
How'd you line up the actors?
We knew immediately casting would be a challenge. However, after a chat, we came up with a suggestion rather quickly: Find a couple who were actors or, alternatively, actors that lived in the same house. We called a few and did some auditions online, and then went with Margaret McAuliffe and Rowan Finken [for both TV and radio]. The caller on the other line is actually one of our designers, Chelsey O'Connor, who is married to the director of the piece. We were really lucky with the cast. Since they live together, we didn't need to break any rules on social distancing.
Client: Department of Justice & Equality
Executive Creative Director Des Creedon
Copywriters Niall McDonnell, Blaise Hoban
Art Director Mikey Ryan
Producer Kate McEvoy
Business Director Yvonne Caplice
Account Manager Ruth Gill
Production and Post-production TBWA\Dublin – MAKE
Director Rupert Morris
Sound Mark Richards, Mutiny
PHD Media: Fiona Howard, Laura Comber, Brian Carolan