Refuge: Don't Cover It Up

Future 5 awards 2013.

Launch date: 1st July


Over 65% of women who experience domestic violence keep it hidden, particularly young women. Refuge, Britain’s leading domestic violence charity wanted to address this. But with no budget, were faced with a problem, how do you talk to a notoriously hard to reach audience about a subject they don’t want to talk about?

Instead of relying on disruptive communications methods that were unlikely to be effective (and which we couldn't afford), we instead took a subversive approach, using understanding of our media culture combined with powerful content to create an impact far beyond the budget available. We used a trusted medium as a "Trojan Horse" to deliver a shocking piece of content to the audience. Content was tailored entirely to its environment, and designed specifically to encourage users to replicate the Trojan Horse in sharing it themselves.

Strategy and details of activity

Our big idea was Lauren Luke- a make-up artist who posts video tutorials on YouTube. Lauren’s relationship with her 455,000 young, female subscribers is very personal. Her tutorials have a one-to-one approach; almost directly replicating the experience of two girlfriends swapping tips while doing their make-up together.

In July 2012, Lauren posted a tutorial called "How to look your best the morning after". Viewers were shocked to see a heavily bruised Lauren explaining how to cover up marks of abuse as if it were normal. At the end, the "Don’t cover it up" message appeared with Refuge’s details.
Simultaneously, PR began in social and traditional media. Social affairs, news, fashion and lifestyle sites and twitter feeds either presented the film as a normal makeup tutorial or told the story behind the footage: how we used social media to surprise an audience, and why it was important to do so.


National Level

  • Pre-campaign proactive outreach generated 7,630,200 impacts worth £122,957
  • Post-campaign reactive coverage generated 73,869,000 impacts worth £5,811,311

Social Level

  • 1,218,444 YouTube views. 2,587% more views than Lauren’s previous five posts.
  • 4,456 YouTube comments. 1,092% more comments and a 1,388% higher engagement rate than Lauren’s 5 previous posts.
  • 9,065 tweets.
  • Number of tweets directed to @RefugeCharity increased by 350%.
  • Tweet exposure of 19 million
  • 32,992 Facebook shares


  • Gold of Golds at this year's Creative Circle awards
  • Winner of the Marketing Society award for excellence in the marketing on a shoestring category

Business outcome

As a result of this campaign, Refuge experienced a significant impact on their business:

  • Single and direct debit donations increased YOY during July and August against a trend of decline.
  • Visitors to doubled for two months after the campaign
  • 34,550 visitors arrived on the campaign page on to learn more or volunteer
  • Interest and appeal of the charity from corporate donors increased, due to the increased awareness of and empathy towards the charity.
  • Over 6,000 people contacted Refuge to get help

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