Silver Spike

Case Film

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CategoryA08. Charities, Public Health & Safety, Public Awareness Messages
Idea Creation COLENSO BBDO Auckland, NEW ZEALAND


Name Company Position
Nick Worthington Colenso BBDO Creative Chairman
Dan Wright Colenso BBDO Creative Director
Oriel Davis-Lyons Colenso BBDO Copywriter
Graeme Clarke Colenso BBDO Copywriter
Henry Hewat Colenso BBDO Art Director
Hannah Habgood Colenso BBDO Copywriter
Tom Addison Colenso BBDO Senior Designer
Neville Doyle Colenso BBDO Planning Director
Brodie Reid Colenso BBDO Senior Business Director
Amy Pollok Colenso BBDO Junior Planner
Paul Gunn Colenso BBDO Head of Activation & PR
Franziska Huelsmeyer Colenso BBDO Account Director
Mike Hammond Colenso BBDO Senior Editor
Tim Freeman Colenso BBDO Production Director
Robbie Boyd Colenso BBDO Creative Technologist
Louisa Jones Porter Novelli Account Director PR
Jane Clancey Amnesty International Head of Global Brand
Elizabeth Meckes Amnesty International Digital Strategy Manager
Thomas Coombes Amnesty International Campaign Press Officer

The Campaign

Ad blocking is a huge topic of conversation in the digital world at the moment. Our idea was to harness the zeitgeist around this and use it for good. We would seek to turn this platform on its head and use it to get our messages to parts of the world they may usually be censored. We approached one of the world's biggest platforms, AdBlock, to partner with Amnesty International and together take a stand against cyber censorship. We knew that putting ads in front of those that had expressly chosen to block them was a risk for both parties. Our belief that this would not backfire was based on our analysis of the adblocking audiences – it was a calculated risk that these messages would be ones close to their own hearts and one that they would be, on this occasion, happy to see ads for.

Creative Execution

To ensure this audience, who’d opted out of seeing all ads, would pay attention we turned to some of the world's most recognisable names in the fight for freedom from censorship and surveillance and we let them tell their story in their own words. Enlisting Edward Snowden, Ai Weiwei and Pussy Riot we created ads that clicked through to content written by these influencers on the dangers of cyber surveillance and governmental digital censorship, all driven by their own experiences. Launching on World Day Against Cyber Censorship the scale of the campaign was simple – everywhere users of AdBlock went, they would see our message. They not only embraced it, they shared it on to the world through their own social channels. The seemingly counter-intuitive partnership ensured that our story was picked up by news outlets around the world, ensuring the campaign was seen far beyond AdBlock’s 50 million users.

On World Day Against Cyber Censorship, this partnership between AdBlock and Amnesty International allowed our campaign to reach over 330 million people. Globally, Amnesty International experienced the highest levels of web traffic in the history of the organisation All ads were served to an audience who have actively chosen to block all advertising and yet they experienced a response rate of over 1000% above industry benchmarks. The highest levels of web traffic occurred in China and Russia – exactly the sort of countries that Amnesty International usually find it hard to spread their message. This showed the power that this unique partnership with AdBlock created. With a total campaign cost of less than $20,000, and $0 spent on paid media, we generated over $7.5 million worth of earned media.

Ad blocking is one of the hot topics in the digital media landscape. Whilst the world argued about the ethics of it, we saw a chance to use this platform for good in a way that no one before us had. We transformed a platform designed to block ads into a one-off, bespoke media channel to deliver our messages on World Day Against Cyber Censorship. Our provocative partnership between Amnesty International and AdBlock took our messages about cyber freedom out into the world, to countries like China and Russia where Amnesty International often struggle to have their message heard.

Insights, Strategy and the Idea

At the heart of ad blocking is the desire to control your online experience. People who have downloaded one tend to be more tech savvy, concerned with online privacy and believe that the internet should be free from censorship. This made them a perfect audience for Amnesty Internationals message. There was just the small issue that they’re are not traditional supporters of Amnesty and they are an audience that are by definition hard to get your message in front of. By convincing AdBlock to partner with us we ensured that we would get their attention – all we needed to do was make sure that the message would be one they would be open to hearing. The innovative nature of the partnership also helped us secure the attention of a wider audience way beyond just the AdBlock users.


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