by Oresti Patricios (@orestaki) A couple of weeks ago, South Africa ad agency Ireland/Davenport quickly spotted an opportunity to capitalise on the viral nature of #thedress for one of its clients — the Salvation Army’s Carehaven. The result is a campaign that is simple, smart — and the flash of inspiration is in the wording “black and blue.”

The viral growth of #thedress is inexplicable, but memes do have that tendency of taking on a life of their own.

Social media phenomenon

If you’ve just returned from a planet without internet, allow me to explain: a social media phenomenon took place recently, where people were arguing whether a particular dress were blue with a black lace trim, or white with a gold lace trim.

The Dress colour adjustedThe argument arose partly because the photo was poorly shot — overexposed, with a tungsten source of light from above. Some people see it for what it is, which is blue and black; some see it as white and gold.

Uncountable social media debates led to scientists and photographers to weigh in with opinions on why certain people see it as white and gold, rather than blue and black. #thedress gripped the interwebs, made global news and, of course, was the source of much meme amusement.

The Salvation Army ad, which was released on social media and received widespread attention, portrays a curvaceous blonde model in an obviously white and gold version of the dress.

Ireland Davenport Salvation Army Women AbuseThe headline reads: “Why is it so hard to see black and blue.” Look close, and you realise that the model has bruises on her body, as well as a black eye and a cut lip.

Enlargement of Salvation Army adThe epiphany is a shock to the system, because the scene is shot like a glamour pic, with a grey infinity curve and soft lighting. As your eyes focus upon the model’s face, you realise something is ‘wrong’ — there’s a moment of cognitive dissonance and you then spot the bruises, first on her face, then on the rest of her body.


It’s a disturbing double-take, enhanced by the wordplay of the headline.

The payoff line beneath the headline is: “One in six women are victims of abuse. That’s no illusion.” — referring to the explanation given by scientists and pundits for #thedress — it is, in fact, an optical illusion.

The Salvation Army’s Carehaven in the Western Cape looks after 50 abused women and their children. According to the Salvation Army website, “Carehaven provides safety, professional counselling, support groups/workshops, access to medical care and legal advice, HIV/Aids counselling and training, day care services for children, life skills and parenting training, development of practical subjects, spiritual encouragement and support, and love and care.”

The campaign was released within 24 hours of the meme going ‘viral’ on 26 February 2015— so it was still able to exploit the impetus within social media.


By the evening of Friday 6 March, the campaign had been featured on CNN, NBC, The Telegraph, The Washington Post and Huffington Post, among others.

“Total reach for the ad is estimated to be well over 100 million,” says Philip Ireland, chairman of Ireland/Davenport Group.

The agency has even been approached by anti-abuse organisations around the world for permission to reuse the ad for their campaigns.

Virus, the specialist viral content marketing division of the Ireland/Davenport Group, was responsible for releasing and seeding the ad through various online channels.

All in all, this is a brilliant concept that capitalised on an international trend, using social media to disseminate a really important message — not just for the charity, but to champion women’s rights and to take a stand against the abuse of women.


Executive creative directors: Philip Ireland & John Davenport
Creative director: Wihan Meerholz
Art director: Caitlyn Goldring
Art director: Werner Cloete
Account director: David Sutherland
Photography production: Natalie Andrews
Photographer: Huw Morris
Model: Skye Capazorio
Retouching: Zelda Meerholz (The Post Office)
Makeup: Graeme Press (The Creature Shop SA)
Studio: Glo Studios


Oresti PatriciosAd of the Week, published on MarkLives every Wednesday, is penned by Oresti Patricios (@orestaki), the CEO of Ornico, a Brand Intelligence® firm that focuses on media, reputation and brand research.

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