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Weber Shandwick - PR Innovation of the Year

Gold Stevie Award Winner 2016, Click to Enter The 2017 Stevie Awards for Sales and Customer service

Company: Weber Shandwick, London, United Kingdom
Company Description: Weber Shandwick is a leading global public relations firm with offices in more than 80 countries. The firm’s diverse team of thinkers, strategists, analysts, producers, designers, developers and campaign activators has won the most prestigious awards in the world for innovative, creative approaches and impactful work.
Nomination Category: Corporate Communications, Investor Relations, & Public Relations Categories
Nomination Sub Category: PR Innovation of the Year

Nomination Title: ActionAid UK, #BrutalCut

Tell the story about this nominated communications innovation since 1 January 2016 (up to 650 words). Describe how the innovation was discovered, developed, refined and/or deployed. Provide an assessment of how the innovation has impacted or will impact your organization, your clients, your industry, markets or/or society.


Three million girls in Africa are at risk of female genital mutilation (FGM) each year.

FGM, which still goes on around the world even though it is now illegal in many countries, is a traditional practice that involves cutting of the clitoris and labia, for non-medical reasons, of girls aged 4-12.

This brutal tradition can cause severe bleeding, infertility and even death, and can have devastating psychological and social consequences. After FGM, girls are often taken out of school and forced into early marriage.

International charity ActionAid is working in 10 African countries to end the practice.

ActionAid believes awareness is the first step to ending it. So the objective was to generate conversation and greater understanding among the UK population, with a target reach of 400,000. This would give ActionAid a credible voice for fundraising around the issue, and help to end FGM, for good.

We needed a disruptive, innovative idea that would generate conversation: one that was bold enough to break free of channels and become news and social currency.

The local shorthand in Kenya – referring to FGM as “the cut” – inspired the idea.

We’d communicate this most brutal of cuts with a “brutal cut” of our own: a short video message from a Kenyan girl who faces FGM that could be cut into any video content our audience might be watching. The message would come without explanation or warning. Just like the FGM cut, its use would be sudden, unforgiving, and brutal.

We initially focused the campaign on millennial communities online. This is the generation that can help end FGM – an audience of active sharers who can spread the issue to a wide audience. So we approached influential video creators and publishers to edit the #BrutalCut clip into their video content, without explanation to their fans.

We interviewed FGM survivors and women’s rights workers from ActionAid Kenya to ensure we communicated this issue with cultural sensitivity.

Our campaign ran at the end of July 2016, as “cutting season” was starting in one of the worst-affected areas of Kenya, Kongelai, where 75% of girls will face the cut.


We visited a school in Kenya to film the 10-second #BrutalCut video clip.

Without warning on 28 July, the message interrupted vlogger videos, content from digital publishers, influencer and celebrity posts, cinema ads, festival screens and outdoor digital ads to deliver the message: “This cut might be irritating, but some cuts are life-destroying”.

The video linked to where visitors could use a web app to edit a brutal cut into their own selfies and share on social media. The website also features a documentary explaining why ActionAid is building safe centres for girls fleeing FGM in Kenya.

At noon on launch day, 132 digital screens across the UK were cut, including London’s iconic One Piccadilly, in the first-ever synchronised disruption of outdoor media.

#BrutalCut also interrupted two screens at the Latitude festival in July, and cinema trailers at the London Rooftop Film Clubs.


The innovative campaign helped ActionAid secure £250,000 in funding from players of People's Postcode Lottery to build community safe centres to protect Kenyan girls.

#BrutalCut inspired 24 celebrities and high-profile vloggers, along with major online publishers such as LadBible and Pretty 52, to cut their social content, share the campaign video or post support. And the campaign provoked thousands of conversations in support (over 1,000 conversations on Twitter alone).

Millions of people saw and talked about #BrutalCut, with a reach of over 152 million via social, digital and outdoor media.

-Influencer/celebrity/publisher content: 9,204,218 views
-Coverage reach: 51,273,205 (including the Independent, Teen Vogue, BBC Asian Network, Mashable)
-Twitter: 1,001 #BrutalCut mentions sparking 1,148 conversations about the need to “end cutting” (12.8million impressions)
-Outdoor reach: 67,409 impacts
-Facebook reach 465,888; engagement 16,506
-11,507 webpage visits.

In bullet-list form, briefly summarize up to 10 (ten) of the chief characteristics and benefits of the nominated innovation (up to 150 words).

-ActionAid challenged us to get more people in the UK talking about the uncomfortable subject of female genital mutilation (FGM).
-To highlight this most brutal of cuts, we created a #BrutalCut of our own: video messages from Kenyan girls facing FGM, unexpectedly cut into content by vloggers, influencers and publishers.
-The campaign had a total reach of over 152 million.
-12.8 million Twitter impressions from 1,001 mentions of #BrutalCut sparked 1,148 conversations about the need to “end cutting”
-Influencer/celebrity/publisher content: 9,204,218 views
-On a minimal budget, this innovative use of influencers and media sparked thousands of conversations in solidarity with young girls at risk of FGM and calling for an end to the practice.
-The campaign helped ActionAid secure £250,000 in funding from players of the People's Postcode Lottery to build community safe centres to protect Kenyan girls.