Cannes Lions

Brutal Postings


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As we think we live in a more open and tolerant world, an undercurrent of violence and hatred towards LGBTQ+ individuals is rising. Even more so in countries perceived as accepting. And it’s not just physical as every 23 seconds, a homophobic remark is posted online. It’s so omnipresent that people ignore it, even if cyber bullying leads to 3 times more suicides in the LGBTQ+ community. At the same time, studies show that only 9% of people report online hate when they see it, claiming the process is too long or complicated.

For the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, the Emergence Foundation wanted people to understand the real-life impacts of online hatred and get them to act on it.


We tend to underestimate the real-life consequences of what happens online. But cyberhomophobia couldn’t be more serious as online bullying leads to 3 times more suicides in the LGBTQ+ community. To show people the scale and impact of homophobic tweets and Facebook comments, we printed and displayed a hundred of them on two prominent wild posting palissades in the heart of Montréal before the morning commute, hoping for visceral reactions from people. What happened next helped us expose a double-standard: if we call the police, tear down and verbally assault perpetrators when we witness this type of language in the real world, why aren’t we doing anything when we see the exact same words online?


Studies show that the LGBTQ+ community, especially millenials and Gen Z don’t feel that they need to fight for equality anymore. Most of them live in urban areas where gender diversity is accepted and celebrated. So it was imperative for us to help our target realize that online bullying can have dangerous repercussions and that despite the fact that we’re moving towards a more inclusive world, there’s still work to do. The shock factor was essential to create an impact as younger generations tend to be impervious to ignorable, unidirectional communications.


On April 25th, 2019, we installed two hundred posters on two wild posting palissades in the heart of Montréal before the morning commute. The monochromic copy-driven posters showed real homophobic and transphobic tweets found online, some of them unchecked for more than four years. The posters we’re on display for less than half an hour as the police shut us down in less than 20 minutes. Armed with 4 long-focal cameras, we filmed and documented the whole process which served to make a promotional video for the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHOTB). The video launched on May 15th, two days before IDAHOTB and was amplified by allies and LGBTQ+ activists from over 80 countries.


The most potent result of the experiment is that both palissades were taken down by police within 20 minutes, thus proving our double-standard towards online homophobia.

The video also was an instant hit. Prominent organizations like the U.N., government bodies like the Ministry of Justice and Canadian personalities beyond the LGBTQ+ spectrum like Veronique Cloutier rallied behind our message. Our organic share rate exceeded Facebook’s average by over 500% in less than 48 hours. Two months after the campaign, Twitter reported an 8% increase in reporting of hate speech on its platform. School boards from across the country are using Brutal Postings as pedagogical material to fight cyber bullying and the Emergence Foundation was awarded a medal by the Canadian Rights Commission. Amazingly, a month after the program launched, Canada announced it would be launching a Digital Charter against online hatred, the first of its kind in the World.

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