Most media ideas sell things... ...this one transforms lives

Nearly 1 in 4 teenage girls’ experience physical abuse in a relationship, while 75% face emotional abuse*. This is unacceptable. M4C/Mediacom briefed us on behalf of the Home office for their Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) campaign. Abuse: give teenagers the ability to recognise what constitutes abuse and empower them to challenge these behaviours or seek help. Rape: Improve understanding and overcome perceived myths of what constitutes sexual consent.


We were aware the award-winning Hollyoaks (teenager’s favourite soap) was planning a long running, impactful storyline that featured an abusive relationship between Patrick & Maxine. We also knew, through Product Placement* research, our audience build close para-social relationships with the characters, creating empathy and emotional connection. So we created the ultimate in contextual advertising, persuading the soap actors to become the faces of a multi-media government abuse and rape campaign, blurring the lines between advertising and editorial.

The original brief was for activity to run in December 2012. Due to the strength of the idea and the timescales involved in a developing storyline the Home Office agreed to sign off activity that started a full 12 months later. Throughout this period multiple stakeholders (Home Office, M4C, Mediacom, Lime Pictures, Sassy Films, C4 commissioning, marketing, PR, legal, compliance, digital and sales) met regularly, often on a weekly basis. This helped overcome their natural conservatism as innovation on this scale had never been tried before by the Home Office.


In a media first, the heart of the campaign was to create two hard-hitting TV adverts showing the characters, Maxine and Patrick, in extra scenes of abuse & rape, highlighting the issue and making it clear that this is unacceptable. During the 5th December episode of Hollyoaks, Patrick loses his temper and strikes Maxine. Immediately afterwards, our first advert debuted in the break. We contextually placed these ads whenever the Patrick & Maxine abuse storyline featured in an episode, as well as running across teen targeted programming across C4 sales, and licensed for use on other TV channels. We extended the storyline further with three further exclusive extra scenes that fans could only see online.


To further highlight how abusive relationships evolve, we created a bespoke timeline for the Hollyoaks Facebook page, charting the evolution of Maxine and Patrick’s relationship, from controlling behavior through to emotional abuse ending in rape. We coordinated social media posts to the 2 million Hollyoaks fans, with 42 messages across 4 months generating in excess of 4,000 comments. Finally we ran HPTO and digital display across


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