‘Back To School’ display: stopping people in their tracks

Revolt's Creative Directors on how they made the hard-hitting #BackToBullying campaign

Half a million shoppers visited Westfield on the weekend before the new school term, and it’s safe to say none of them ever imagined they’d see mannequins beating each other up.

We created this startling installation as part of an integrated campaign for charity The Diana Award to highlight how many children are going back to physical and mental abuse at school.

We also made a 45” back-to-school advert that gets hijacked by bullying. Typically cheerful music and on-screen prices sit in stark contrast to the heart-wrenching scene that unfolds.

The campaign didn’t start with a brief, but as a proactive entry into Ocean Outdoor’s DOOH Competition — one of six charity finalists of 300 entries. When we joined activist agency and purpose consultancy Revolt in July to work with ECD Orlando Warner (who has a longstanding relationship with The Diana Award), we wondered how else we could bring our idea to life.

We wrote a script based on school essentials, giving poignant new meaning to their selling points, and kept it as low-budget as possible: a one-day shoot, one location, a handful of actors. We sent it to executive producer Fliss Hutcheson at Agile Films and they got behind it, pulling in favours to make it happen. Hearing director Lucy Bridger was on board was an exciting moment.

Considering how to disrupt other back-to-school touchpoints, we realised faceless mannequins could represent the millions of children experiencing bullying. We sent a deck to Westfield’s manager featuring AI-generated visuals to convey the idea, and they kindly donated space, as did Ocean Outdoor on their big screens. A key player was production designer Jenny Dee — fully flexible mannequins weren’t available in time, so to achieve the poses we wanted, Jenny had to cut and bolt limbs back together, Frankenstein-style.

Working with PR agency Premier, we surveyed 2000 children which revealed 65% were afraid of going back to bullying. In truth, for Sarah and I, our ‘research’ started two decades ago as we were both bullied in school, so this was an issue close to our hearts.

The timeframe almost destroyed us… We worked flat-out for seven weeks to launch in early September. The installation had to be built overnight so we were up until 5AM. None of it would have been possible without our amazingly collaborative and trusting clients, Alex Holmes, Jamilah Simpson and Caz Pike.

The response has been incredible, with hundreds of people calling it ‘powerful’ and ‘deeply moving’. It has reached upwards of 12 million people, getting coverage in 30+ media outlets including BBC News airing the spot a dozen times.

On a personal level, if it helps even a few young people have conversations about bullying and get support, it will be worthwhile. Our first eight weeks at Revolt have been a baptism of fire, but this has shown us that amazing things can happen when you have an idea that excites people, for a cause that truly matters.

Featured image: Back to School campaign / Revolt

Sarah Levitt, Creative Director, Revolt

Sarah Levitt is a Creative Director at REVOLT, where she makes purpose-driven work for global brands and charities. Identified as one of Campaign’s Next Leaders of British Commercial Creativity, she is also one of the IPA’s Women of Tomorrow. Her work includes creating the Cannes Lion-winning #OutOfOffice campaign for The Women’s Equality Party and the Hot 100 Spotify playlist for Menopause Mandate. On the side, Sarah has her own alcoholic candy floss business, Sweet Mother Fluffer

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Matt Roach, Creative Director, Revolt

Matt Roach is a Creative Director at Revolt, making purpose-driven campaigns for global brands and charities. His work has made headlines worldwide and been recognised at Cannes Lions, the Clios, Webbys and more. Past projects include bringing live poetry to the Tube to inspire better travel etiquette (aired on BBC News), educating about the menopause with a Hot 100 Spotify playlist that turned song titles into a story, and creating the hilarious swatch books 'Know Your Sh*t' and 'Know Your Baby Poo’ published by Penguin

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