Matthew Miller
Oct 19, 2018

Brilliant anti-sexism campaign weaponises retargeting

People who fail to rebuke a sexist will keep on seeing him in ads, while those who click to shut him down will be rewarded.

'Doing nothing does harm', a new campaign for Australian non-profit Our Watch by Thinkerbell, is one of the most ingenious uses of a digital platform we can remember seeing.

In each of a series of short videos, a raging sexist says something completely despicable. If you click to intervene when prompted, you're taken to a short clip where one of the guy's friends takes him to task. Then you're congratulated for stepping up—with a promise that you won't see more ads from the campaign.

The genius part comes if you fail to speak up (by clicking). In that case, the campaign retargets you to ensure that you will keep on seeing the ads until you do something. Thinkerbell worked with Google on the technology to support the "detargeting".

(We've put together two of the videos, along with their alternate endings, in the playlist above, which doesn't support the interactive features*. To see the rest of the campaign clips and try out the interaction, go here.)

Adam Ferrier, consumer psychologist at Thinkerbell, says the campaign purposely mirrors real life. If people take action, they're rewarded by seeing less sexist behaviour in the future. If they say nothing, that implies acceptance, so they'll be punished by continuing to see and hear utter assholes like this one. 

One quibble is that real-life incidents of sexist behaviour can be a great deal more subtle than this. The sexist guy is such an absolute dick that it's hard to believe anyone would ever be his friend. But rather than completely ostracising him—or beating him senseless—for the outrageous garbage that comes out of his mouth, his friends call him "mate" and gently tell him he's wrong.

We get it. The examples are deliberately obvious to capture attention. Some real people are actually this cretinous, so you have to start somewhere. And the campaign is trying to model corrective reactions people can employ in real life (the campaign website has more tips on how to respond). We just hope to see some followups where the misogyny is more insidious, and therefore a bit harder to call out.

* For posterity's sake, we repost videos whenever possible, because YouTube videos have a way of disappearing over time.

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