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Case study: ActionAid #BrutalCut

Video demonstrates the impact of the ActionAid #BrutalCut social media campaign

ActionAid works to improve the lives of young women in the developing world, and FGM (female genital mutilation) is a key issue that they work to eradicate.

The campaign aimed to highlight how some Kenyan girls’ lives are being brutally cut short by FGM – whether through the immediate risks or the longer-term impact. It utilised stark images of girls in Kenya cutting into adverts and video screens across the UK and on social media.


It took the colloquial term for the procedure – the cut – and turned that into the creative idea at the centre of the campaign. The activity was timed to coincide with the start of the summer school holidays, which in parts of Kenya is also known as the ‘cutting season’.

The two teenage girls fronting the campaign had escaped FGM and fled to an ActionAid-funded safe house in Western Kenya. Their story would be told in short interruptive videos, which were edited into unlikely places online including YouTube blogger videos about beauty and relationships, Facebook virals about cute dogs, and celebrity Instagram feeds.


Social media users were given the tools to participate, with a selfie creator which produced a video of their selfie, abruptly cut to the campaign video. This garnered support from celebrities and influencers alike generating thousands of conversation on Twitter alone.

In addition, the videos made their way to outdoor screens in key locations such as Piccadilly Circus in London, major shopping malls and the main stage at leading UK festivals with a synchronised interruption of over a hundred screens at the same time.


Millions of people saw and talked about #BrutalCut, with a reach of more than 152 million via social, digital and outdoor media.

The campaign inspired 24 celebrity and high-profile vloggers along with major online publishers to cut their social content, share the campaign video or post support. Most importantly, the campaign provoked thousands of conversations, with more than 1,000 conversations on Twitter alone.

Despite the minimal budget the campaign exploded to become social and news currency, covered by the Independent, Teen Vogue, BBC Asian Network and Mashable.

What we can learn from this

The success of this campaign lies in a brave and unflinching transformation of the shocking act of ‘the cut’ into a creative idea. That idea alone, however, is not enough to carry the message. Creating a wide-ranging set of collaborations with publishers in all formats across all channels gave the campaign true presence in the minds of the British public, and it ultimately raised significant funds to help put an end to FGM in Kenya.

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