South African ad agency uses #TheDress to send anti-domestic violence message

For a few days through the end of February and the beginning of March, a blue and black dress made waves on the Internet as netizens scratched their heads trying to figure out the colours of the dress.

Several scientific reasons were offered to explain why some saw the dress as blue and black, while others saw it as white and gold.

Entertainment site BuzzFeed even deduced through a poll that the perception of the colours could have to do with age. But one advertising agency had bigger things in mind: an advertisement against domestic violence.

South African advertising agency Ireland/Davenport created an ad on March 6 with a visibly bruised model wearing the infamous dress, with the tagline "Why is it so hard to see black and blue". The ad also says that one in six women is a victim of abuse.

The ad features the logo for Carehaven, a home in South Africa for abused women and their children run by the Salvation Army.

The ad agency told BuzzFeed that its creative team took one day to create the ad, and approached the Salvation Army to ask if they would like their name to it.

"For the past few days the Internet has been swarming with comments about 'the dress' - overall people have been commenting how they hate the fact that an insignificant thing like this could take priority on the Internet over more pressing topics such as abuse," the ad agency said.

The difference in viewing the colours was attributed to "colour constancy", according to a scientific explanation in the New York Times. Colour constancy is the eyes' ability to assign fixed colours to objects under widely different lighting conditions. Different people may pick up different visual cues in the image, which can change how they interpret and name the colours, the article said.

jalmsab@sph.com.sg