Home Office

Concerned about shocking statistics on domestic violence against women, the Home Office of the UK Government established a new single telephone helpline, run by the charities Women's Aid and Refuge. The task was to make women aware of the helpline number.

Quantitative analysis revealed 16-24 year old C2DE women with children, living in inner city and deprived areas to be most at risk. Further discussions with the Home Office and the charities gave us two breakthrough insights: Firstly, it is a major emotional step for women to identify themselves as victims; secondly, it was essential that the telephone number was communicated to women without alerting any potential abuser.

The key was to find ways to make the target audience aware of the phone number at times and in places where abusers were unlikely to be alerted - women-only places and 'deniable environments' in which women could have received the message without appearing to have sought it out deliberately. We called this strategy "Private conversations" - hundreds of thousands of private conversations.

  • Create Private Conversations as the central communications strategy for the campaign.
  • The campaign began with national radio coverage, scheduled for times when abusers were more likely to be at work, such as during the afternoon school run.
  • Women's magazines - traditionally a no-go zone for men - also carried the helpline number.
  • Posters, which appeared on stall doors in women's restrooms, with tear-off 'Post-Its' carrying just the phone number - with no explanation of what it was for.
  • Supermarkets ran the message on the back of their receipts, enabling victims to bring the number home legitimately without incurring suspicion. The number was also distributed with information/product sample packs given directly to pregnant women by their midwives.
  • Awareness doubled among high-risk women.
  • Prompted awareness measured at 44% reaching 60% among high-risk 16-24 year olds.
  • Spontaneous awareness of the phone number among high-risk group up from 18% to 33%.
Stuart Sullivan-Martin, Jenny Boyden

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