You’ve seen the dress. Is it blue and black? Or is it white and gold? This dress showed up online overnight and people were amused for a little bit but then got really annoyed at the attention it was getting. People are starving or being oppressed by their government in foreign countries and we’re worried about what color a dress is? At the end of the day, who really cares what color it is; it’s just another internet sensation. However, the South African Salvation Army, with the help of an advertising agency, took this scientific phenomenon of a dress and incorporated it into their ad that is nothing short of the word: bold.
The ad depicts a bruised model wearing the dress with the caption, “Why is it so hard to see black and blue?” reporting that one in six women are victims of abuse. From a marketing standpoint, kudos for the Salvation Army to ride on the coattails of this viral image that everyone with an Internet connection has seen, but was it too much? Did the Salvation Army cross some sort of invisible moral line when they created this ad? Did they take what was a fun optical illusion and turn it into something dark and unexpected? In my honest opinion: absolutely not. Don’t get me wrong; it is definitely edgy, but not offensive in the least. When it comes to talking about tough subjects like abuse, the more shocking the ad, the more powerful it is and gets us really talking about the subject. It’s almost like an icebreaker. The advertising agency that came up with the advertisement released a statement, defending the ad. Their reason is exactly what gives the ad so much power:

“For the past few days the internet has been swarming with comments about ‘the dress’ – overall people have been commenting how they hate the fact that an insignificant thing like this could take priority on the internet over more pressing topics such as abuse”

Taking something that we claimed was “insignificant”, as many agreed that it clearly was, and turning it on its head into a powerful message is a grand feat. The problem critics have with this ad is cheapening the message of violence and abuse with some internet craze that everyone tried to hashtag or create a hokey meme about. We hear statistics about domestic abuse and breast cancer all the time, but are we really absorbing the information? The facts flashing on commercials have become less effective because we keep seeing them; sadly, they aren’t getting the job done anymore. Companies and organizations need to take a risk and do their homework when it comes to creating a powerful ad with an even more powerful message. The Salvation Army ad maybe does not bring the conversation into a grand forum, but it sticks out in our minds now and got us talking, even for just a few days, about violence against women. It’s hard to keep our attention when it comes to important issues, like abuse, but every little bit helps. When everyone said, “Who cares about this stupid dress?” the Salvation Army turned it into a message that made us care.