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Cutting through an uncharitable environment


Cutting through an uncharitable environment



Client:White Ribbon Australia

Agency:Marketing Elements


In an environment where charity days are prolific, the level of competition for publicity is high and, unless the charity has major national public awareness, publicity is even harder to secure.

White Ribbon Day, 25 November, is the international United Nations (UN) sanctioned day that aims to end violence against women, by encouraging men and boys to take positive action to create change. White Ribbon Australia engaged Marketing Elements to boost public awareness and media attention nationally.

White Ribbon Australia in 2009 built a campaign, titled ‘I Swear’, created by former CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi, Simone Bartley, around a single call to action – encouraging all men to swear an oath against violence against women at the myoath.com.au website. High profile male faces and organisations agreed to lend their names and brands to the cause, including Andrew O’Keefe, Hazem El Masri, Rove, Tim Sheens, Alan Fels, Charlie King, Michael Long, the AFL and NRL, and the list goes on.

Also supporting the cause were close to 1000 ambassadors across the country, who were galvanised to spread the message about what role men can play in decreasing violence against women and encourage men to take action for change. They spread the message on White Ribbon Day by hosting events, ‘swearing ceremonies’ and using social media.

When Marketing Elements joined the team, the brand needed to build media awareness of the issue in mainstream media and promote an uncomfortable and confronting challenge to change public and, in particular, male behaviour around violence against women.


Australian men were the clear target audience for the campaign: as the primary perpetrators of violence against women in this country and also the best placed to do something about it – in positions of trust, and consultations in friendship and family groups with other men. As such, the defining character of the campaign was that men, rather than females, were the key spokespeople for the messages.

The campaign was relatively new, so the objective was to widen the audience awareness and recognition of the campaign targeting national and localised media across print, TV, radio and online media. It was important to give the campaign a strong foundation for growth, leading to greater ambassador and public involvement, sales of White Ribbon merchandise, more events and men swearing on the My Oath website.


The program has three key dimensions:

  1. The biggest resource for the campaign was the large number of ambassadors around the country supporting the cause. The strategy was clearly focused on leveraging their support and making it easy for them to publicise their events and communicate the key messages. One element of that was offering unique angles to promote these events and recommending what elements in an event would help generate media attention and attendance, such as hosting an event at appropriate times for the media and inviting well-known local and national guests.
  2. Capitalising on the support of well-known personalities was also critical. We coordinated interest among select personalities to be involved in feature stories in national magazines and newspapers, to attend national events and to act as spokespeople for TV, print and radio opportunities, as well as engaging these personalities using social media.
  3. Industry research commissioned by White Ribbon on the role Australian men play in preventing violence against women also offered a solid, harder hitting news angle for the campaign.

In order to dissuade media complacency common for charity days, the credibility of the campaign was emphasised with promotion of the international UN link to White Ribbon Day, as well as the level and calibre of support nationally. A simple message and call to action was also vital, with the campaign adapted to encourage the community to ‘Swear and Wear’.


While the campaign was delivered over a three-month period, the bulk of the activity was in the month of November leading up to White Ribbon Day.

To support the events around the country, a template press release and PR advice manual were distributed to event organisers around the country to target local newspapers and radio stations. Marketing Elements took charge of directly publicising five major events in Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne. A series of press releases was issued announcing each event.

High profile special guests were engaged to attend selected events and prepped as spokespeople for the campaign. In Canberra, Prime Minster Julia Gillard and Opposition Leader Tony Abbott hosted a ‘swearing ceremony’, while in Sydney a theme of ‘men in uniform’ enlisted dozens of New South Wales parliamentarians and police to lead in a swearing ceremony by Weekend Sunrise presenter and White Ribbon chairman Andrew O’Keefe.

With a groundswell of media interest building, having spokespeople available to talk about the issue at a moment’s notice on the day was critical. A list of more than two dozen media spokespeople around the country was identified, categorised according to expertise and briefed. Pitching media talent for national and state-wide radio and TV, in addition to the events, proved useful. Further interest was secured with the creation of a media kit for key state-wide radio and TV hosts, in the form of a ‘swear jar’ with media materials encouraging hosts to ‘swear on air’ and wear the enclosed White Ribbons. One of the most important spokespeople was the Canadian founder of the international day, Dr Michael Kaufman, who was in Australia for the event.

The timing and manner of releasing industry research was also important. Exclusivity was offered to the one metro Sydney newspaper to report on this research the weekend prior to the day, serving to filter into radio and online debate and extending the coverage many days longer than just on White Ribbon Day itself.


The campaign successfully engaged the key White Ribbon media. Marketing Elements secured over 80 pieces of media coverage including 15 print, 52 radio and 22 TV feature stories and segments over the month of November. Across the country, there were 800 pieces of coverage, a major improvement on the previous year of 500 clippings. Major highlights included a seven-minute interview with Dr Kaufman on Channel 10 program The Circle, a front page article in The Australian about the Prime Minister’s swearing ceremony, a five-page fashion spread in FHM magazine and an eight-minute interview with Dr Kaufman with Fran Kelly on Radio National’s Breakfast show.

In 2010, the White Ribbon Campaign achieved:

  • recall of the ‘My Oath’ campaign on TV and current affairs increased by 50 percent between 2009 and 2010, from 24 percent to 36 percent for all people
  • six out of 10 men (61 percent) now say they would support the campaign, up from 46 percent supporting it in September 2009
  • there was a substantial increase in the proportion of people who recalled seeing coverage of the ‘My Oath’ campaign in almost all media, with the strongest increase occurring for TV news and current affairs, from 24 percent in 2009 to 36 percent in 2010
  • there were 1300 White Ribbon ambassadors across Australia, committed to speaking out to raise awareness of violence against women
  • 4921 people signed up to ‘Swear’ as part of the ‘My Oath’ campaign – a 58 percent increase from 2009 – bringing the total to 13,264 Swears, of which 78 percent are men
  • over 200 White Ribbon Day events registered on the White Ribbon website, with four percent in remote and very remote areas, which is a high level of engagement for the three percent of Australia’s population who live in remote or very remote regions
  • on Twitter, White Ribbon was ranked number two in Sydney and Melbourne on the day and also reached Top 10 trends on Twitter with ‘I Swear’ and ‘My Oath’
  • over 1000 articles, comments and mentions in the media on White Ribbon Day, with a further 1000 mentions in the lead-up, and
  • distribution of more than 400,000 ribbons and wristbands across Australia – each one representing an engagement by an individual with the purpose of the campaign.

All major events were supported with media attention, while maintaining consistent messaging throughout the month. A focus on empowering men to be the activists of change was maintained.


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