Citizen.Speak.Amplify

The people behind #thedress advert talk racial representation, real-world impact, and the bottom line

Earlier on Wednesday The Daily Vox’s managing editor Faranaaz Parker chatted with Carin Holmes from The Salvation Army and Wihan Meerholtz from advertising agency Ireland/Davenport about their campaign against domestic abuse, featuring #thedress. Although the advert has gone viral globally, it hasn’t been without its critics. RA’EESA PATHER rounds up what Holmes and Meerholtz had to say about the campaign.

1. Race and representation: choosing a model
According to the ad, one in six South African women are victims of abuse. Black people comprise the majority of South Africa’s population, and are more often the victims of crime. Meerholtz said that the (white) model chosen was available on the day, and that “if there was more time” the team “would’ve applied a black woman to it as well”.

“We didn’t have the actual dress. That [the dress] was dropped [into] Photoshop to be able to create the illusion of the actual dress [being] put on,” Meerholtz said. “We were only able to find a certain size of a white dress to be able to apply to our model currently.”

2. Translating online success into real-world impact
In a digital age, where clicktivism has become the new activism, many have asked how successful the ad campaign has been in promoting behaviourial change and helping victims in the real world.

“The success can already be measured with the fact that we’re here having this interview,” Meerholtz said. He added that Ireland/Davenport had received phone calls from across Europe to Canada, while Holmes said that more than 200 international media platforms had reported on the advertisement.

According to Holmes, the magnitude of the response, which she said included 30.5-million tweets, was unexpected. “I’m still doing interviews, so it really has taken social-media networks by force; it’s amazing.” Holmes said.

Meerholtz added that Ireland/Davenport were putting up a billboard for the ad, and that the agency had been offered an SMS donation line to rise funds for the Salvation Army.

3. The bottom line: let’s talk moolah
But with the advert running to help those in need of assistance, how much money has been raised to provide the care that is needed?

“We haven’t seen the money yet, and certainly we do not want this to be a financial gain. That’s the last thing that we want. If this ad can help a woman, a man, an individual to come out and speak out to say ‘I’m a victim, I need help’, then it has done its work,” Holmes said.

She added that their goal is encourage victims of abuse to speak out and take a stand.

What are your thoughts on the advert? Share your comments with us below. And if you didn’t catch our hangout live, you can watch the fascinating, full interview here:

 – Featured image via @salvationarmyUK on Twitter

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