Designing for victim counselling Zurich: advertising success with a stale aftertaste

If a direct response campaign has a good effect, this is normally a reason for joy. But when it is associated with human suffering and despair, consternation dominates. An insight into a campaign by the Zurich agency Gestalten for the victim advisory service of the city of Zurich.

You read it in the media all too often. Violent crimes are committed with high regularity and in all areas. Whether it's drivers beating each other on public roads or secret threats in private: violence has many faces.

Despite a clear legal basis and comprehensive prevention measures, violent crimes remain at a high level. In recent years, they have even increased slightly. Not least as a side effect of the Corona pandemic, which has also led to an increased incidence of domestic violence.

Victims have a right to help

Because victims of violent crime deserve special protection, the Swiss Victim Assistance Act speaks a clear language: every person who has been the victim of a violent crime has the right to assistance. This assistance includes counselling, legal support and financial aid. In addition to the suffering experienced by every victim, there remains another problem that even the law cannot address: the high number of unreported cases of victims who do not dare to report an act of violence or to seek help. "Depending on the act of violence and the study, we have to assume that up to 80 percent of crimes are not reported to the police and that a similar number of victims do not seek help," explains Fedor Bottler, who heads the Zurich Victim Advisory Service and is a co-initiator of the campaign.

Chat counselling for young people and other victims of violence

The number of victims who do not seek help is particularly high among young people. "An analysis of the various means of communication has shown that addressing them in a way that is appropriate for young people lowers the inhibition threshold for making contact," explains Thomas Krebs, owner of Gestalten. "Because for this target group in particular, it is too big a step to come to the premises of the Zurich victim counselling service to open up to an unknown counsellor with their concerns. For this reason, digital channels have been established for young people that guarantee simple and anonymous, i.e. low-threshold access."

In the first wave, the focus was on young people. They were interviewed in a street survey on the topic.

A tightrope walk for creatives

In order to publicise the new chat service and motivate those affected to seek help, Gestalten was commissioned to develop a communication concept. Especially the creation faced a big challenge. Although the aim was to develop an attention-grabbing, fast, emotional, aesthetic and activating campaign, special attention had to be paid to the victims' sensitivities. "The campaign should in no way be lurid or put pressure on the audience," explains Krebs. That's why different directions were pursued in the development, which were ultimately evaluated together with the specialists from the Zurich victim counselling service.

In the development process, Gestalten approached the theme with different lines.

Bringing the chat to life

As a basis for the creative concept, the agency from Zurich Binz chose the symbolism and architecture of a live chat and populated it with exemplary content. In this way, it was possible to subtly reflect the suffering of the victims and at the same time show how empathetic the immediate help of the victim counselling turns out to be. In order to create the dialogues for the individual subjects, the counsellors at Opferberatung Zürich worked intensively with the creative team at Gestalten. A colour combination with a high radiance unites all advertising material applications.

Immediate response

Measured by the traditional standards of a direct response campaign, Gestalten considers the victim counselling campaign to be a great success. During a period starting in May 2021, the number of chat consultations has more than doubled compared to the previous year. At the same time, the number of clicks on the website has increased tenfold.

Despite the good results, there is still a bitter aftertaste: the high response to the chat consultation is not only proof of the prevalence of the problem of violence, but also expresses to the same extent the high inhibition thresholds and the still widespread shame among those affected.

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