#TheDress Is Back (for a Good Cause)

One application of The Dress that isn't totally annoying.
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Dhani Mau
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One application of The Dress that isn't totally annoying.
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Just when we thought The Dress meme (coverage of which has saturated the Internet and driven me nuts since last week) had finally become old news, someone decided to bring it back for an ad campaign.

Granted, if anyone is going to harness the record-breaking virality of this "color-changing" dress, we're glad it's to spread an important message. Rather than shill a product, the ad uses the dress for a PSA about domestic violence. Above an image of a battered woman wearing a white and gold (we think?) version of the dress, the headline reads, "Why is it so hard to see black and blue?" The copy beneath states: "The only illusion is if you think it was her choice. One in 6 women are victims of abuse. Stop abuse against women." This is followed by a phone number for people to call if they are in an abusive situation and need help.

The ad was put out by Salvation Army South Africa in conjunction with Care Haven, a home for abused women and children, and conceived by South African ad agency Ireland/Davenport. As Account Director David Sutherland explained over the phone on Friday, a creative team of about eight people from the agency came up with the idea after seeing the meme. "We thought we would piggyback and use it for good," he said. Though neither Salvation Army nor Care Haven were clients of Ireland/Davenport, Sutherland said they "knew we wanted to get behind a good cause," because, without an organization to support it, the ad "would have fallen flat." 

Care Haven officially signed on as a client Thursday — the same day the ad was shot and retouched (like the bruises, the dress was added on in Photoshop). It was then distributed in Friday morning's issue of the Cape Times newspaper, and the Salvation Army South Africa shared it on Twitter. Other than that, it hasn't been pushed at all. "We didn't see it going this viral," added Sutherland, who had been fielding calls from a number of international outlets all day. Of course, he's very pleased that it has.

There have been several attempts by companies to capitalize on the frenzy of #TheDress since it began: Brands from Skittles to Clorox to L'Oreal tried to incorporate the debate into their social media content, usually with cheesy and embarrassing results.

A sponsored Instagram by Rent the Runway offering 20 percent off all blue and black dresses elicited a collective eye roll from the Fashionista team. Then, of course, the actual brand behind the $77 dress promoted it strategically once it caught wind of the phenomenon, and it sold out in minutes. Fair enough.

This ad is certainly one of the better examples of a company harnessing the dress's viral power; we only wish it could have come out sooner, before the meme had already reached its saturation point.