Flipping the ‘asking for it’ narrative to highlight consent laws

Flipping the ‘asking for it’ narrative to highlight consent laws
The Media Plan

Independent agency Goodstuff Communications, creative agency CPB London (now Forsman & Bodenfors) and charity Right to Equality collaborated on a lobbying campaign to change 20-year-old UK sexual offence legislation.

The brief? To introduce a model of “affirmative consent” or “a clear, voluntary, explicit agreement to engage in specific sexual activity, requiring ongoing communication and mutual understanding” that would emphasise active consent rather than an absence of objections.

The challenge was not only how to generate free media support, but also reach as many adults across the UK with a striking message, while also appearing in key contexts to spark conversations, particularly among those who could be affected.

Effecting change

Tessa Harding, planning manager at Goodstuff, explained: “There was an ambition to reach a wide cross-section of the UK. We did want to reach women in certain spaces to connect with them, driving forward the ambition of creating change for those who it impacts most, but this campaign wasn’t specifically gendered.

“In securing pro bono support, we still wanted to be considered and selective with our partners, our environments and contexts, so student unions and accommodations were a really natural and important part of the campaign, allowing us to reach a younger adult audience that are navigating these experiences and having conversations around consent — perhaps for the first time, in many cases.”

Activity was created by a team that included sexual assault survivors, with intentionally provocative creative reminding viewers how women are often treated by society and the courts, where the often-used excuse is they were “asking for it”. The campaign flipped this statement to ask for legal change.

‘Tactical’ partners

Goodstuff secured entirely pro bono media and partnered with six OOH media owners nationwide, with formats across roadside, cinemas, gyms, student unions and student accommodation, as well as print and digital publications, including Stylist, The Guardian and Cosmo.

There was accompanying high-impact digital display activity across premium publishers and sites, and content across Meta platforms.

“We still needed to be tactical about the partners we asked to work with and ‘ask favours from’, rather than firing out into the ether and hoping for the best,” Harding said.

“We were careful to choose partners that would give us a really nice mixture, eg. roadside OOH in high-footfall locations, versus gym screens, or national papers like the Guardian, versus lifestyles mags like Cosmo. We also wanted to appear in environments that felt really contextually relevant. Stylist, for instance, was a given, given their alignment in positioning on women’s issue, and we’re really pleased they were keen to support.”

Harding noted that not all media owners were going to support the cause or willing to commit inventory to the campaign. There was “push-back from some publishers”, which asked to tone down the copy or for the message to be “softer”.


The campaign generated 448m views of PR media coverage reach and 36m total social reach, not including Goodstuff’s media channel delivery. The team will be tracking engagement on X to see if the message is being engaged by those who may not have previously given this issue any thought.

Beyond that, the hope is to see a change in law. The government petition reached 10,000 signatures within five days, meaning an official response is now due.

Harding concluded: “I am so proud to have been involved in this campaign and to have been able to generate a tonne of free media support from media owners dedicated to sharing the campaign message. I want people to talk about this, to have the conversation with friends, family, partners.

“Get talking about consent, what it looks like to you and why it’s important to establish it. Hopefully, we can create a bit of a cultural shift around our attitudes and behaviours towards sex, creating more space for respect and mutual understanding, and not feeling weird about it.

“I also think it’s fair to say that advertising isn’t necessarily the most ethically driven or morally enriching industry to be part of a lot of the time, but can absolutely be a force for good. It’s brilliant to be able to put cause at the centre of your work and, when we can use our resources, individually or as agencies/businesses, to support and drive forward a common purpose, it’s really significant and empowering.”

Adwanted UK is the trusted delivery partner for three essential services which deliver accountability, standardisation, and audience data for the out-of-home industry. Playout is Outsmart’s new system to centralise and standardise playout reporting data across all outdoor media owners in the UK. SPACE is the industry’s comprehensive inventory database delivered through a collaboration between IPAO and Outsmart. The RouteAPI is a SaaS solution which delivers the ooh industry’s audience data quickly and simply into clients’ systems. Contact us for more information on SPACE, J-ET, Audiotrack or our data engines.

Media Jobs