Canadian Women’s Foundation shows the power of a response

Who: The Canadian Women’s Foundation, with Juniper Park\TBWA for creative and strategy (TamTam\TBWA for French); Merchant for production (directed by Christina Yu); Saints and Alter Ego for post production; Sting for audio, and Touché for media.

What: “Change the Story,” a new PSA on the Signal for Help platform that emphasizes the important role of responding to women in need of assistance.

When & Where: The spot is in market now, running across social and programmatic digital channels.

Why: Introduced early in the pandemic, Signal For Help—a way for women to silently request help in order to deal with an abusive partner—was shared around the world. In late 2021, CWF and Juniper Park\TBWA followed up with an action guide for those who see a woman using the hand signal.

The inspiration for the third campaign is the fact that only one in five Canadians feel confident they know how to support someone dealing with abuse, although more than two-thirds know a woman who has endured physical, sexual or emotional abuse.

“Abuse is preventable, and I’m thrilled with this opportunity to demonstrate how we can all offer survivors of violence our caring, non-judgmental support,” said Andrea Gunraj, vice-president, public engagement at the Canadian Women’s Foundation, in a release. “There’s no reason we can’t all get equipped to take action where we live, work, and play, too.”

How: The 60-second PSA shows that stories of women facing gender-based violence can have much better endings when people know how to respond to signals for help. The ad is structured around one story that begins the same way, but ends very differently.

In one case, a TV reporter from a domestic crime scene outside a home explains that “friends and family report they hadn’t heard from the woman in weeks,” and calls and texts weren’t returned. That scene is juxtaposed with another in which a woman video chats with a friend, explaining how she checked on her neighbour and got her help, because “I just knew something was wrong.”

While the journalist reports that it was “too late” for the woman, the other scenario has a better ending, with the woman getting to a safe place. “When you know how to respond to the signs of abuse, you can change the story,” reads an on-screen super, with a throw to Visitors to the site can take the Signal for Help Responder online mini-course, listen to the Signal for Help podcast, and sign up for the Signal for Help Learning Journey.

And we quote: “As powerful as the Signal for Help is, we also need to show people that knowing how to respond to the signs of gender-based violence is what truly changes the story for many women. This approach calls attention to another side of the narrative, with the aim of giving responders ‘encouragement to reach in,’ in the same way that the Signal for Help encourages those experiencing abuse to reach out.”—Sasha Newton and Gira Moin, associate creative directors, Juniper Park\TBWA

David Brown