(Note: The video below is on autoplay. Mute your volume if you’d like to experience it in full after the jump.)
A charity in the United Kingdom is tapping into that urge to click “Skip Ad” on a pre-roll video ad to advocate for ex-offender’s rights.
Business in the Community recruited Leo Burnett London’s nonprofit branch, Leo Burnett Change, to put you in the seat of an office manager. A young man sits across from you, and soon reveals that he recently left prison. This is where the first “Skip Ad” appears. But instead of taking you to another video, the young man reacts to your decision as if you just sighed loudly or closed the folder with his application inside. It is an apt metaphor for the way British nations and most American states “skip” over ex-offenders in society.
You can let the ad play out from the beginning or after each skip, or you can dismiss him as quickly as possible. Each leads to a different portrayal of the same message. Try it below. Refresh this page to start it from the beginning:
The ad is in support of the “Ban the Box” initiative. Ban the Box is an international movement to remove the “prior criminal offenses” box on job applications.
To clarify, even if a law prohibits criminal history from affecting an application, an employer can still request the information before agreeing to a contract.
The United Kingdom has been much more conservative than their European neighbours regarding prisoners and ex-cons’ rights, but Ban the Box advocates point to data that there are over 9 million British citizens with prior convictions, and that research suggests employment can significantly reduce the risk of re-offending.
There are currently nine states, including Massachusetts and California, that have “banned the box.”
The ad launched last week and is playing as a pre-roll video on (mostly left-leaning) British online publications, such as the site for channel 4oD and newspaper The Guardian.
“Its power comes from the way that the Skip Ad functionality is a native element of the experience which is then subverted,” Leo Burnett Change founder Kit Altin told Business Insider in an email.
Since its debut, it has been discussed in print, on the radio, and on television, including primetime BBC coverage.
Altin said that she and her team have been very happy with the response via social media, and the ad is trending on Twitter under “#bantheboxuk“.
The newsletter David Reviews, which Altin considers “the toughest critic in the UK ad industry,” had this to say:
There’s always a danger when a piece of work is especially clever that its message will be lost along the way, but this piece of film advocating a second chance for people who’ve been to prison uses its trick quite brilliantly and really stands a chance of making employers rethink their approach.
Altin recognises that despite being lauded by the left, the ad won’t change long-held prejudices overnight. She believes, however, its impact has already successfully added a spark to the debate.
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