What once was Internet ephemera is now a powerful message for social justice. The Salvation Army in South Africa has repurposed #TheDress — the social media phenomenon that fooled countless people into believing a black and blue dress was really white and gold — into a harrowing, powerful point. “Why is it so hard to see black and blue?” reads the headline of the Salvation Army’s message, which features a bruised woman wearing the white and gold version of #TheDress. The copy beneath the headline continues, “The only illusion is if you think it was her choice. One in 6 women are victims of abuse. Stop abuse against women.” South African creative agency Ireland/Davenport produced the ad for the non-profit as a charity piece on March 5. “We wanted to take advantage of the hype of the meme to spread awareness for something important,” Wihan Meerhloz, the creative director of Ireland/Davenport, told ABC News. “Our creative team brainstormed ways to send a greater message about overlooked abuse against women using the dress.” What’s interesting about this message is that many would consider #TheDress culturally irrelevant. Like so many other Internet memes, interest in #TheDress died out as fast as it ignited. Yet, about a week later, this ad has gone viral about as fast as its inspiration did.
“Using something that went viral to spread a much more serious topic is a bold move,” says Kelly Cooper of Agency850.com “Nice one Ireland/Davenport.”
Though the message comes from a South African creative agency, domestic violence is a problem all across the world. In the United States, three women are murdered by a former intimate partner every day, while more than 13,000 others are physically harmed. “The Salvation Army sees the devastating effects of domestic violence on women, men and children every day,” said a spokesperson for The Salvation Army in a press release. “We support people who are affected in our human trafficking work, our specialist services, Lifehouses and community centres.” Spreading awareness of an issue is the first step towards changing people’s approach to it, so share it on social media, and ask others if they see black and blue.