Advert campaign – Refuge – 50 year anniversary

At first the glossy film appears to advertise another new smartphone, with close-up shots of a sleek device and a voiceover boasting its features. But about ten seconds in, the promo takes a dark turn.

“You can keep up to date with traffic in your area—and her movements,” the voiceover says. “You won’t need that extra space for those videos of her. Manipulating her has never been easier.”

The video link can be found here.

As the camera pans out, revealing a smartphone screen with a photo of a seemingly happy couple, a warning appears: “Domestic abuse is getting smarter.”

The ad is for the charity Refuge, which is marking its 50th anniversary of fighting domestic abuse in the U.K. For the organization, this is not a celebratory occasion. Despite the significant work it has undertaken since opening its first safe house for women in 1971, one in four women will experience domestic abuse at some point in their lives, and two women are killed every week by a current or former partner, according to Refuge.

“There’s nothing to celebrate with those shocking statistics,” said Lisa King, director of communications and external relations at Refuge. “Domestic abuse is as serious as ever and is becoming bigger and more complex with the capabilities of technology in our world today. That means Refuge’s job is bigger and more complex than ever.”

Identifying domestic abuse

One of the campaign’s primary goals is to help people understand “domestic abuse in its broadest sense” and what it looks like in 2021, which includes the ever-increasing ways abusers are using technology to monitor and control their partners, King explained. Refuge saw a 97% rise in complex tech abuse cases between April 2020 and May 2021, and in 2017 it set up a dedicated team to help women facing tech abuse.

To highlight technology’s insidious role in domestic abuse, Bartle Bogle Hegarty London decided to style the campaign after typical tech advertising.

“It had to look absolutely convincing, very premium and slick, and behave in a way that you didn’t see coming from a charity,” said Kimberley Gill, creative director at BBH. “It had to leave people feeling uncomfortable.”

The campaign will run across TV, cinema, social media, radio and out-of-home, with posters that also resemble tech ads but have lines such as, “Watch for your deliveries. Watch her every move.”

Influencers, including Ayesha Perry-Iqbal, will hand their Instagram Stories over to Refuge for one day to post content showing how far abusers may go to monitor their partners, such as by checking bank statements and tracking movements outside the home. At the end of the takeover, the influencers will reveal that Refuge was behind the posts and encourage their followers to donate to the charity.

The influencer activity is to help people “who may not even realize they are being abused” recognize the signs, Gill explained. For example, Refuge has found that in the U.K., two in five women say that a partner or family member knows the password to their personal devices, and 28% of those women report that they did not give the password out willingly.

It is statistics such as these that reinforce the urgency of Refuge’s job, King said. As has been widely reported, domestic abuse incidents have spiked around the world since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. The charity is “still seeing high calls and contacts to our helpline”—about a 60% increase since February 2020, she added.

However, there is one bright spot as Refuge marks this anniversary. Its supporter base has grown from about 3,000 at the start of 2020 to more than 100,000, partly due to the communications and campaigning it has done during the pandemic, King said.

“We hope this campaign talks to more people and encourages them to take action,” she said.


Refuge communications and external relations director: Lisa King
Agency: Bartle Bogle Hegarty London
Creative Team: Jennifer Ashton, Oliver Short
Creative Director: Kimberley Gill
Chief Creative Officer: Joakim Borgström
ECD: Helen Rhodes
Strategy Director: Lucy Moody
Business Lead: Karen Martin
Account Managers: Phoebe Kennedy, Caitlin Quigley
Account Director: Bella Bertolotti
Account Executive: Zimini Fongho
Agency Producer:  Jemima Bowers
Direction: Optical Arts
Executive Producer/Producer: Hannah May
Design, CG Animation, Colour Grading & Post Production: Optical Arts
Mastering and Titles: Electric Theatre Collective
Sound: Markus Ffitch at Grand Central Studios
Music Composition: Markus Ffitch
Print Producer: Lauren Daniels 
Design and Creation: Optical Arts 
Design: Josh Bailey / Rob Wilson

Verified by MonsterInsights