A chilling lullaby about domestic violence

Who: Red Door Family Shelter, with Camp Jefferson for strategy and creative, Outsider Editorial, Studio Feather, Untitled Creative Inc and TA2 Sound + Music. Media by Jungle Media.

What: A new awareness campaign for the 40-year-old organization, which is one of the largest family shelters in Toronto, providing support to more than 350 families every year.

When & Where: The campaign launched this week, timed to coincide with Mother’s Day. It’s running across TV and radio, with print ads in the Toronto Star, as well as digital and traditional out-of-home.

Why: The campaign’s major goal is to provide people with a better understanding of domestic abuse, leading to “more compassion and understanding,” said Wanda Lougheed, Red Door’s interim executive director. A secondary goal is to raise awareness of Red Door programs and support, including a food bank, a moving program and children’s programs.

How: The creative is inspired by a common question asked of abused women: “Why don’t you just leave?” It is an oversimplification of a very complex and challenging decision that many mothers struggle to make without support, said Lougheed.

The ads feature a chillingly updated version of the children’s lullaby “Rock-a-Bye Baby,” with the lyrics presenting a portrait of domestic violence and explaining why women stay with their abusers: To ensure the safety and care of a young child.

The spot opens with a woman singing the instantly recognizable lullaby, before it takes a sinister turn. Accompanied by shots of a stuffed animal, a mobile and a family pet raising its head at the sound of a slamming door, the lyrics continue: “When daddy gets mad, the shouting won’t stop. He’ll scream and he’ll push, he’ll make mommy fall.” The final shot shows an infant crying in a crib, as the lyrics continue “But I’ll stay for you baby, bearing it all.”

And we quote: “We want people to reconsider the difficulty of this situation and to stop putting the onus on women to leave. A big goal of this campaign is to give people enough perspective so they can start showing more compassion and understanding.” — Wanda Lougheed, interim executive director, Red Door Family Shelter

Chris Powell