Interval House, a Canadian women’s shelter, has turned the romantic trope of “the one that got away” on its head in a Valentine’s Day campaign. At first, the men in the campaign seem sweet and honest -talking wistfully about the one who got away – until it becomes clear the women were leaving an abusive relationship.
The ad by Toronto-based advertising agency Union, which has worked with Interval House for four years, shifts the focus from the victim to the offender. According to the ad, it takes an average of five attempts to leave an abusive partner.
“The video is a flip of the script. You kind of fall for the guys at first. You think they’re really sweet,” Rachel Ramkaran, resource development and communications associate at Interval House, told The Globe. “But as the video goes on you realize there is manipulation, possessiveness, harassing phone calls. You start to pick up on the subtle things that just aren’t right – that it wasn’t the healthiest relationship. We wanted to show that this is not always in your face and obvious. It can be anybody. Anybody is capable of this.”
Ramakaran was asked if the ad is a ‘downer’ on Valentine’s Day: “There are certainly people who would rather see pictures of candy, flowers and kittens. There will be loads of that for them today. We needed to put this out there, too. People have love and relationships on the mind today. It’s an opportunity to have a wider reach. We want to reach the women who need our support in order to leave a bad situation.”
“Far too often we only see physical violence as the aspect highlighted in conversation around domestic abuse,” says Lance Martin, chief creative officer at Union, told AdWeek. “We wanted to broaden the spectrum and help more people recognize and understand the struggle that comes with leaving abusive relationships.”