Dubai agency’s Paper Child campaign successful in raising awareness

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From left, Yusuf Pingar, Yayati Godbole and Jamal Iqbal of Spark* Middle East created the campaign. Courtesy Spark*
After a call-to-action campaign by the Community Development ­Authority (CDA) in Dubai to report child abuse went viral online in ­February, the creators of the Paper Child print and television advertisement series received a phone call that demonstrated their target ­audience had been reached. The public service announcement created to promote the CDA’s new Child Protection Centre relies on a simple analogy: crumpled and torn paper to underscore the vulnerability of a child. “We got a call from someone who had seen the campaign on Facebook and got in touch with us saying he knows of a child being abused,” says Jamal Iqbal, the copy director at Spark* Middle East, the agency that worked on the creative brief for CDA. “We directed him to the CDA and a month later the individual contacted us again to inform us that the child had been helped.” The agency’s two-month effort ­researching and consulting counsellors and psychologists to come up with sensitive yet effective visuals had paid off. But the icing on the cake came earlier this month when theirs was voted one of the favourite creative campaigns at the 14th ­edition of the ACT Responsible exhibition, organised during the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity. The expo, held annually at the Palais des Festivals in Cannes, showcased the most effective social and environmental messages crafted by 88 agencies from 30 countries. The Swiss-based not-for-profit organisation Advertising Community Together (ACT) gathers thousands of socially relevant ads from around the world each year and whittles them down to 1,000 entries for expo visitors and online public to vote. CDA’s 45-second Paper Child line-drawing animation TV commercial won the ACT Tributes Award in the Human Rights category. There isn’t an easy way to say this: child abuse in the form of neglect, physical, verbal and sexual assault is rampant. So the team faced some pertinent questions from their client at the initial pitch: will people understand it? Will they be put off by the images? Will they take action? Yayati Godbole, the creative director at Spark*, says the company had its work cut out to create something that would distinguish itself from the media clutter. “When you talk about child abuse, you want to put it out there in a ­manner that does not put people off, but also needs to create an awareness,” says Godbole. “We had to do something that would stand out and also have a recall value to the ­message from CDA. A child is like paper and any act against them is like paper being crushed or cut. The whole act disturbs their ­delicateness or innocence. The paper represents the innocence of a child.” The print ads focus on recognising the telltale signs of abuse, such as a child’s withdrawn behaviour or self-inflicted wounds. One of the displays is the image of a distressed boy with the ad space over him slashed to depict self-harm as a result of abuse. The television ad, also focusing on crumpled paper, is geared ­towards prompting viewers to step in when they witness abuse. Iqbal says using paper as a reference enabled them to diversify the ads to fit several situations. “What we learn from experts is that unlike sexual abuse, which is the first thing that comes to mind when we think about child abuse, negligence isn’t considered as damaging. Hitting a child, leaving them in a locked car in the heat – this is all abuse. I think Paper Child gave us ways of explaining all of this individually.” Yusuf Pinger, the managing director of Spark*, who was approached by ACT to register for the competition after the company began gaining traction on social media, says they had to be cautious about how they ­relayed those sentiments. “The fact is that it is a super-­sensitive subject and that children are fragile,” he says. “Also, most of them are never going to talk about it either to their parents or siblings. It is something that hurts them deep down, destroying their ego and ­morale.” Iqbal says they tried steering away from the shock value assigned to ­social ads. “It’s a subtle reinforcement. If a child looks away, flinches at movement around, it means something is going on.” The next phase of the campaign for CDA, which will follow in the coming months, will include direct mailers to schools, and more vehicle advertising. CDA’s Child Protection Centre in Al Barsha assists children under the age of 18 by offering rehabilitation, counselling, visiting and assisting children in trouble. It can be reached on 800 988.
SourceAfshan Ahmed, http://www.thenational.ae, 30th June, 2014
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