#China: Words Can Be Weapons

Verbal abuse towards children can have harrowing effects. The psychological damage can be so intense that children resort to heinous crimes like murder and assault.

Ogilvy and Mather, China collaborated with the Centre for Psychological Research to tell the stories of 6 juvenile delinquents who were verbally abused by their parents and are now detained in jail.

“Verbal abuse is a kind of emotional abuse that is learned behaviour. Unless the cycle is broken, the lasting effects can extend into adulthood and the abuse will likely be passed on from one generation to the next”, said Dr. Jun He Jiang, Director, Center for Psychological Research, Shenyang.

The challenge for the campaign was that verbal abuse is often a taboo topic in China and is therefore not easily detected or discussed. Ogilvy had to start a real conversation and also ensure that parents and guardians saw the real life, destructive consequences of verbal abuse.

To me, the most innovative part of the campaign was how the ad literally showed how the abusive words were re-structured to form shapes that resembled guns and knives.  This really drove the point home – WORDS really can turn into WEAPONS.

This ad was not just run in isolation. Tangible results were reaped as micro-sites, phone helplines and We Chat helplines were set-up for teens to approach professional counselling anonymously.  Reports suggest that more than 300 phone calls were made just within two weeks of the website’s launch.  Additionally, more than 30 websites (including the Economist and Chinese Government Websites) carried reports of the project.

This campaign has undoubtedly reaped real life social benefits and definitely touched my heart . I hope that advertising continues to lend its creativity to creates more awareness, discussion and debate about social issues that impacts our everyday lives.

 

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