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Oct 12, 2023
Orlando Warner
Fighting For Attention: Why Disruptive Advertising Matters
Revolt’s ECD Orlando Warner on disruption and the agency’s new ‘#BackToBullying’ campaign
Attention spans are narrowing. It’s a fact.

According to the Technical University of Denmark, the average attention span has now shrunk to about 47 seconds (and because of the words ‘Technical’ and ‘University’, I believe them). I can vouch for this from my own personal experience. My attention span regularly wanders like a badly trained beagle. Now where was I? Oh yes, the dwindling concentration-span crisis.

The main culprit is the sheer volume of information being presented to people. As we wade our way through a ceaseless barrage of shouty adverts, beeping notifications and the latest TikTok dance craze, it’s hardly surprising we barely have the headspace to remember where the car is parked. We are quite simply overstimulated: bloated on the visual and verbal cacophony of noise.

It’s why we all need to be wrenched out of our comfort zones every now and again. With our recent stunt for The Diana Award we wanted to surprise people into staying engaged with our idea. We wanted to hijack their concentration.

But first, a bit of background. The Diana Award is Princess Diana’s legacy charity. Their mission is to empower young people to change the attitudes and culture of bullying. A recent survey they commissioned of 2,000 parents and children revealed 65% of young people are afraid of going back to school because of bullying. That’s over half of our children fearful of physical or emotional violence.

So we decided to disrupt the whole premise of Back to School. We started with a film. Back-to-school ads are always so cheerful, we knew it would be powerful if bullying ‘hijacked’ that nauseatingly optimistic depiction of school as portrayed by the advertising world. With the brilliant Lucy Bridger from Agile Films, and designers Amy Whittaker and Ines Segades, we worked flat out to turn around a hard-hitting film in 7 weeks, begging, borrowing and stealing all the way. But we weren’t stopping there.

We then got in touch with Westfield and explained that as all the shops were filled with back to school promotions, we wanted to do a stunt featuring mannequins bullying each other. 10 days later the installation was being assembled by Matt Roach and Sarah Levitt (the creatives), Julie Cook (the producer) and Jenny Dee (the production designer) throughout the night. The mannequins were morbidly cut and carefully reshaped into positions of violence and humiliation in our fake Back to School clothing showcase.

It’s had an amazing response, with hundreds of people saying it “stopped them in their tracks” and made them feel “deeply moved”. People really engaged. Fully. And I had some extraordinary and terrifying conversations with parents of children who are experiencing bullying.

The campaign reached over 12 million people. The film was played on the BBC a dozen times, Ronan Keating discussed it on Magic Radio (I know!!!), and there were people in the creative industry saying they wish they’d made it – a wonderful compliment. It’s a privilege to have made a campaign that provokes such strong reactions. It’s a privilege to work for a company, Revolt, who will back such projects. But most of all it’s a privilege to work on a campaign that could make a difference to someone, somewhere, who thinks the bullying will never stop.

Orlando Warner is the executive communications director at Revolt
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