While many charities try to stay away from controversial issues in their advertising, for fear of offending potential donors, two nonprofits did an admirable public service when they confronted the important issue of domestic abuse with edgy campaigns on the occasion of International Women’s Day.

This weekend, using unexpected tactics, two nonprofit campaigns went viral on the Internet, spotlighting the crucial issue of ending violence against women.

Salvation Army culturejacks #thedress

Whether you loved or hated it, the debate over an ambiguously colored dress completely consumed the Internet for a couple of days. On Friday, The Salvation Army in South Africa saw #thedress phenomenon as an opportunity. They put the dress on a model in a powerful public service ad and a Tweet that has been shared nearly 7,000 times and favorited 3.4 thousand times.

The model has bruises on her face and body, and the Tweet asks, “Why is it so hard to see Black and Blue? The only illusion is if you think it was her choice. One is six women is a victim of domestic violence. Stop Abuse Against Women.” The Tweet carries the Hashtag #StopAbuseAgainstWomen, that has been shared more than 30,000 times.

Interactive billboards offer a choice

Image for Viral Ads blog - InreractiveBillboard

And also in observance of International Women’s Day, interactive billboards in London used facial recognition technology featuring the image of a woman with a bruised face and the simple imperative, “Look at me!”

The goal: to demonstrate to passersby that by not turning a blind eye and by ending the silence that accompanies domestic violence, they can make a meaningful difference.

If passersby ignored the billboard, nothing happened. But when people stopped to look at the billboards, the woman’s bruises began to heal before their eyes.

The billboards are a collaboration between the nonprofit Women’s Aid UK, London ad agency WCRS, the billboard company Ocean Outdoor, and the British photographer Rankin.

Both organizations created messages people would want to share. That takes more than an appeal for donations.

– Don McKenzie is President & Chief Growth Officer of Innovairre Communications, which supports over 500 nonprofit organizations around the world. Don can be reached at DonM@Innovairre.com.