Cannes Lions

Stop Dowrymongering

BBDO PAKISTAN, Lahore / UN WOMEN / 2019

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Overview

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Overview

Background

In the Indian subcontinent, forced dowry is a practice in which the groom's family coerces the bride's family to pay the groom in material goods. Failure to match this expectation frequently results in thousands of brides being victimised through domestic violence and in many cases, even leading to death through murder or suicide.

In Pakistan, the custom is practised by all classes, and national laws against it have been unable to stop people from continuing to pressure women to submit. UN Women's goal was to create awareness around the evils of this practice by starting a national movement against it, and expose it for the stigma it is.

Idea

Without a major budget, we had to be disruptive to be heard, and so targeted a popular local activity: watching morning shows. In a society obsessed with marriages, these shows will often feature an actual wedding taking place in the studio. Our idea revolved around hijacking this platform and introducing the mystery bride of a celebrity. The revealed "bride" would not be a woman, but material goods that are often demanded in dowry, emphasising to the public just how a dowry bride is viewed: as a transaction.

We used the hijack as an opportunity to introduce the campaign's symbol: an insulting word we invented to identify dowry-demanders as. The act would hereon be known as "Dowrymongering," a word akin to extortion or, even worse, non-kosher activity. The word was displayed as the very symbol of celebrating weddings in the subcontinent: a beautiful henna stamp on the palm.

Strategy

Our research indicated that simply reminding men of the law against forced dowry would not be enough. We had to dig deeper, and shake a sense of self-respect. For the Pakistani man, his honor is his most important asset, and strategically we decided to aim for a message that would connect with the consequence of losing self-respect than of breaking the law.

Our target audience was not only men, but parents of grooms-to-be, who usually demand dowry under pressure from society. Our strategy then was to change that perception from one of respect to insult. Anybody demanding dowry from hereon would be known as a Dowrymongerer, i.e. an extortionist.

As a media strategy, our goal was to gain maximum impressions through the hijack of a popular morning show that already had hundreds of thousands of viewers tuned in.

Execution

Through a carefully planned PR campaign, we slowly introduced to the public the news that celebrity Ali Rehman was about to get married. Images of him wearing a ring were floated online, and were picked up by publications and fans. Ali then released a short video on his social channel and announced that he would indeed get married, and his mystery bride would be revealed on the Geo Morning Show.

Thousands tuned in to see the bride. But during the show, instead of a woman, the shocked audience were introduced to a collection of "dowry" material goods: jewelry, appliances, car keys, etc. Ali took the opportunity to explain the campaign.

We then introduced our campaign logo and slogan: "Stop Dowrymongering" on the same platform.

Outcome

The campaign became the most trending topic in Pakistan during the wedding season. Thousands of women - and men - put up images of our symbol in protest. All the major national news channels carried the campaign on the news.

BBC called the campaign "Instrumental in sparking conversation around the issue." A total reach of 495,000,000 resulted in about $2,100,000 of earned media, all organic.

News reports started coming in of parents canceling weddings when anybody put up a demand of dowry. A cultural shift had started to take place.

The most impactful result for the campaign was a statement issued by the Islamic Council, by far the most influential body in Pakistan, that forced dowry is unIslamic.

Two months after our campaign, a senator submitted a resolution in the country's largest provincial assembly seeking a complete ban on dowry.

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