Covenant House radio ads hard to listen to. That’s the point

November 28, 2012  |  Eve Lazarus  |  Comments

Covenant House:
Sex Trade

The new radio ads for Covenant House are tough to listen to, and that’s the point, says Kevin Barclay, executive creative director at Taxi West, the agency behind them.

One of the ads tells the story of a girl running for her life, another features a teenage boy shivering on winter streets. But it’s the graphic sexual encounter of a girl forced into prostitution that’s the most disturbing. There are no words in the ad, but listeners hear unmistakable rhythmic squeaking, grunting, the sounds of a zipper being done up and, finally, a girl crying. A voiceover delivers the tagline: “It’s hard to listen to. It’s even harder to live through.”

Covenant House:

Barclay said there was much discussion internally and with the client about airing the sexual encounter ad. In the end they decided to run it, but only late at night.

Barclay said that because Covenant House — which provides shelter, food and clothing for more than 1,500 youth on Vancouver’s streets every year – saw a drop in donations last year, something more powerful was needed to break through to potential donors.

“The campaign reflects the harsh reality of life on our streets,” said Michelle Clausius, associate director for Covenant House in a release. “Every charity is on the airwaves [at this time of the year], so we knew that we had to do something that would stand out and make an impact.”

Covenant House:
Bad Night

Barclay said Covenant House faces a problem in that its clientele – homeless youth – are largely invisible. “People see a scruffy kid and they don’t really think twice about it,” he said. “They think it’s something that they just can’t do and have no impact on.”

Radio, he said, allowed Taxi to “visualize” the problem.

“We chose to put you in their shoes,” he said. “The theatre of the mind is much more powerful than seeing it. We thought that if people felt that they were living those moments, they would be more inclined to be empathetic and hopefully more inclined to donate.”

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