Hot Octopuss
Show Stigma The Finger

Sticking it to stigma:
The banned ad campaign
that went viral

Overview

Hot Octopuss stands for removing stigma and taboos around sex and masturbation, in turn, helping the world to achieve healthier, happier sex lives. Its latest product – a revolutionary finger toy – DiGiT – was another application of this philosophy, offering women and their partners new heights of sexual fulfilment through the power of just one finger.

Hot Octopuss briefed Manifest to build a creative campaign to launch its new toy with a bang. This wasn’t just about selling the product though, but about continuing the brand’s mission, kickstarting conversations, breaking down taboos and igniting a movement that would stimulate people to take action.

We created Show Stigma The Finger – a hard-hitting campaign that shone the light on stigmas standing in the way of women achieving sexual fulfilment. Staring six brave activists, wearing nothing but the middle finger, the campaign would go on to be banned by the ad authorities, find its home in Manhattan’s East Village, achieve widespread press coverage and social media support and most importantly, highlight and break down prejudices and phobias standing in the way of women achieving healthy and happy sex lives.

Meet Emelle (31), Lori (56), Mary (50), Raj (52), Sophia (34) and Victoria (33), the faces behind the fingers in Show Stigma The Finger. None of brave activists had any previous modelling experience, but all of them had endured a stigma or prejudice that had become a barrier to them achieving sexual fulfilment. From racism and homophobia, to body shaming and ageism, this campaign was designed to fight against the multitude of stigmas women around the world face every single day and say “enough is enough.”

We collaborated with world-renowned multi-disciplinary artist, Aleksandra Karpowicz who spearheaded the campaign’s casting process and art directed the shoot. Hundreds of women came forward the join the movement against stigma and the final six were photographed in the nude, flicking the middle finger defiantly down the camera’s lens.

The campaign images and the stories of the women and their struggles were turned into an out-of-home campaign and website – ShowStigmaTheFinger.com – that highlighted each of these women’s plights, while providing chances for people to purchase one of the new DiGiT toys, with profits going to charities that each of the women had selected, which included Human Rights Campaign, Little People of America, SAGE, Race Forward, Project HEAL, National Center for Transgender Equality and Human Rights Campaign.

But at the eleventh hour, the beautiful and important ad campaign was banned by the ad authorities. “It’s inappropriate” we were told and it looked like Show Stigma The Finger may never see the light of day after all.

In true Manifest style, we weren’t prepared to take no for an answer… so we teamed up with local street artists in New York who fell in love with the campaign and gave us a wall in the East Village, to display the bold ads.

The fact that the campaign was banned added extra ammunition to the story. Show Stigma The Finger carried an important message about socially created stigmas and norms and yet the campaign was being blocked by the same media world that so frequently censors female bodies to negative consequences.

We weren’t afraid to tell this story to the press and went out with a hard-hitting release about the campaign being banned. Alongside video and photo content from the East Village wall, we shared the story with press globally and teed up influencers to share photos of what they were sticking the finger to on their social channels on the day of launch.

Despite the ad authorities trying to shut us down, Show Stigma The Finger went onto generate press coverage in both the US and UK, as well as hoards of social media support. The world recognized what these women had faced and how it made them feel and they came forward with their own tales of trauma and struggles with achieving sexual fulfilment.

The campaign’s website received 2,000 hits in the first day, with people finding out more about these amazing women and learning more about the new DiGiT toy.

“‘No’ wasn’t an acceptable answer for this one. When we were told the ads were too inappropriate, we knew we had a duty to make sure the world saw it. The stars of the campaign are giving a fearless F-you to years of stereotypes that society has placed upon them. They’re standing up for anyone who’s ever been told they are too big, too old or not pretty enough to enjoy sex. It’s our responsibility to make sure these voices are not silenced, so we are going ahead with the campaign despite what the authorities say.”

Julia Margo, Co-founder and Chief Operating Officer of Hot Octopuss

Results

900k
Reach on social media
2000
Hits to the website in the first week
© Manifest 2020