CreativeReview

Why NSPCC is using a dancing dinosaur to teach children about sexual abuse

Last week, children’s charity NSPCC launched an animated film to help parents and carers talk to children about sexual abuse. Created by Aardman, the film introduces viewers to a yellow dinosaur named Pantosaurus. As Pantosaurus skips through town, playing basketball with his friends and building sandcastles at the beach, an accompanying song explains an important rule to children – that no-one should ever ask to see or touch what’s in their pants.

“It is a really difficult subject for parents to talk about with their kids so we wanted a light-hearted, age appropriate creative that would help parents start that conversation without mentioning the words sex or abuse,” head of marketing Tessa Herbert told CR. “We thought a catchy but simple song was the perfect way of ensuring children remembered the key messages – that their body belongs to them, that they have the right to say no and they should speak to a trusted adult if they’re ever worried about anything – without feeling scared or uncomfortable.”

The ad was released in cinemas on Friday and forms part of the charity’s PANTS campaign – an initiative launched in 2013 to encourage parents and carers to talk to children about sexual abuse using the PANTS acronym: Privates are private, Always remember your body belongs to you; No means no, Talk about secrets that upset you and Speak up, someone can help.

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An accompanying web page provides advice for parents, carers and teachers on how to approach the subject. NSPCC says the campaign has helped over 400,000 parents talk to children about abuse since it was launched, resulting in one conviction and a number of disclosures of abuse from children.

Speaking to CR when the PANTS campaign launched, Mark Tobin, then joint head of creative at NSPCC, said the aim was to create something that would work in a similar way to road safety message Stop, Look and Listen – “a memorable phrase that covers a lot of detail, but that helps people remember important fundamentals and feels uncomplicated and unthreatening.” The Pantosaurus ad builds on this approach with a simple but serious message: What’s in your pants belongs only to you.

The film is the latest in a series from NSPCC which uses animation to address some sensitive subjects – last year, the charity worked with Leo Burnett to create I Saw Your Willy and Lucy and the Boy, a pair of films highlighting the dangers of sending nude pictures and talking to strangers online. Both start out with a cheerful tone but soon take an ominous turn.

“Animation allows us to be more creative in telling stories which would be so difficult to tell using live action,” explains Herbert. “Young children are also well used to watching cartoons and learn a lot from key messages that are often hidden within, so we felt this was tapping into natural behaviour.”

The ads follow NSPCC’s decision to move away from hard-hitting communications and towards more positive marketing highlighting its preventative work and the support it provides to adults and children, a tactic also evident in its Alfie the Astronaut campaign from last year.

In 2014, the charity replaced its Full Stop branding with a colourful new identity and the strapline, ‘every childhood is worth fighting for’ – a move that Herbert says “tells people what we are fighting for rather than standing against.”

“Thanks in part to the Full Stop Campaign most people know that child abuse exists and needs to stop,” she adds. “It’s now really important that the general public understand what the solutions are to child abuse, what the NSPCC is doing and the impact we’re having, and how they as an individual member of society can help by joining the fight. We find that leaving people feeling motivated and positive is a very effective way of getting them to take action to protect children.”

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