#TheDress—at this point, we all know what it looks like (or do we?). Whether the dress is black and blue or white and gold, it sure caused a stir for brands and social media enthusiasts alike. In fact, there may or may not have been a mild altercation about the true color of #TheDress just outside George’s office…
Many brands capitalized on The Dress by steering away from the dress itself and promoting their own products. Coca Cola suggested that The Dress would look better in red and white, Chobani stressed concern for the #lastchobani in the fridge rather than the dress color, and Dunkin Donuts emphasized their delicious donuts rather than the blue/black or white/gold color of the frosting. Though these clever posts were entertaining and allowed brands to get involved in the conversation, they weren’t all that meaningful or thought provoking.
Non-profit organizations, such as the Salvation Army and the American Civil Liberties Union, took The Dress phenomenon as an opportunity to talk about important social issues–domestic violence and discrimination. Although a bit late to the conversation, the South African branch of the Salvation Army tweeted a striking ad last Friday showing a young woman wearing an edited version of the “white and gold” dress covered in black and blue bruises and cuts. The ad stated, “Why is it so hard to see black and blue: The only illusion is if you think it was her choice.” The Salvation Army tweet received 4K retweets and 1.7K favorites (and growing), along with a slew of positive response. The meme shines light on victim blaming and the number of women who are abused by a domestic partner, showing that most abused women are afraid to really see the “black and blue” damage.
The American Civil Liberties Union also snagged the chance to talk about the presence of discrimination in a more timely manner, right when #TheDress went viral. The tweeted ad showed the same photo of the dress that spread across the Internet with the words, “We all see the world differently. We should not be discriminated against because of our beliefs,” along with their logo in both blue/black and white/gold. The tweet did not receive quite as much feedback and virality as the Salvation Army, most likely because the imagery is not as arresting and vivid, but it does go beyond a simple product promotion to target a more important issue.
Digital PSAs as a result of viral web content are not a new thing, despite the attention Salvation Army’s ad is getting. During the 2013 Super Bowl when the lights went out for 22 minutes, numerous brands jumped at the chance to comment on the 34-minute game delay (Oreo ruling all). However, ONE Campaign advocated for their cause by tweeting, “Half a billion people in Africa NEVER have power” with a link to their website. This past summer we even saw a charity itself go viral with the Ice Bucket Challenge, which brought awareness and a high influx of donations to the ALS Association.
Although brand response to social media crazes is entertaining, and we tend to look to brands to see what creative content they will come up with, seeing charities and organizations advocate for their causes with viral web content is refreshing. Digital PSAs remind us of the more important social issues going on in the world. In this case, Salvation Army and American Civil Liberties Union brought a whole new meaning to the debatable question of, “What color is #TheDress?”