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“In the digital age you can assist many, instead of assisting just one”

SapientNitro’s Sydney office created an innovative way to speak up against bullying with Earphone Bully. With the current generation glued to their earphones, Earphone Bully uses 3D sound to put you in the shoes of a silent victim, prompting people to take action.  The company launched the website (http://www.earphonebully.org/) to prepare kids for schoolyard bullies, giving people simple ways to speak up. This interactive experience is about empathy and understanding for bystanders, parents and bullies themselves. The company developed this experience in consultation with an anti-bullying professional and can be easily customized by organizations anywhere in the world to add their local support. In addition, Earphone Bully knows over 500 names, so when you share it with others, it will personalize the experience using your friend’s name.  

Marianne Harvey, Senior Copywriter, SapientNitro Sydney spoke to DMA about how digital medium can be such a great tool to fight for a social cause that can impact many.

Which is the organization that SapientNitro worked with to start on this project?

Earphone Bully does differ from the way things are ‘usually’ done. In 2010 we created a global campaign for AEIOU (Australian Autism body) that rallied over 40 different Autism organizations around the world to collaborate together. We realised that in the digital age you can assist many, instead of assisting just one. It’s a different way of thinking and part of what we believe makes this project breakthrough.

So, we could have created this for BullyingNoWay (Australia’s largest anti-bullying organisation) but as a group of parents at SapientNitro, we preferred to build it for any organisation or individual that is dealing with bullying.  Thus, BullyingNoWay is now using it, as well as Reach Out and Project Rockit. We invite anyone, anywhere in the world to take advantage of it.

What was the idea behind this?

Earphone Bully puts you in the shoes of a silent victim. With the current generation welded to their earphones, it uses 3D sound to virtually put a bully in your head. This creates a powerful role play tool to prepare kids for schoolyard bullies and importantly, gives them ways to speak up about it. We did however consult with a number of organisations in the development of the idea. Initially we contacted Break Through Bullying which was formed by a teacher who ran anti-bullying workshops and role plays in schools. This started the idea to take a role play situation and create a shareable version online. We also consulted with Project Rockit who have worked with over 20,000 students in schools and online. Co-founder of Project Rockit, Lucy Thomas said, “We’re always looking for new resources for students and I honestly think this one will have heaps of credibility. I think it will be a really awesome tool for building empathy, which is obviously at the core of motivating people to actually stand up to bullying.”

Till now what kind of response have you got from this campaign?

Already in Australia we have 3 major anti-bully organisations using Earphone Bully, including the nation’s largest government-funded anti-bully organisation, which is opening the door to all Australian schools as a classroom resource. Youth digital radio station NovaNation is also supporting Earphone Bully.

Since this is a global issue, are you looking at expanding this to other countries in the region? 

We have been in touch with anti-bully groups around the world and global interest is growing with key influencers such as The Bully Project promoting the site.

How important is the role of digital media today to address social issues? 

It’s an integral part of everyone’s life, and so should be integral in addressing any social issue – particularly one such as bullying which affects young people so deeply.

How well can brands work with this medium to respond to social issues and causes?

The potential is there to respond quickly and with an impact that can multiply and have a lasting effect. The platforms and technology might be changing all the time but using an insight to draw out an emotional response in people won’t change. It’s just that now with digital media we have a more relevant and intimate way to evoke this response.

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