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Amnesty International Unblocker

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Amnesty International is an organisation focused on the abuse of human rights and freedom of speech around the world. Increasingly, the area of cyber censorship has become a key focus. While the internet was meant to be a tool that liberated information, the reality is that a third of all people who are online do not have uncensored access to the world wide web.

What’s more, since 2014 several countries that are seen as being free from these sorts of issues have added to the ‘Enemies of the Internet’ list – namely the UK and the US.

The aim of this campaign was to shine a light on this – to highlight the growing issues of online censorship and surveillance and the draw the world’s attentions to World Day Against Cyber Censorship. Amnesty International wanted people to take note, but had no media budget to reach them.


Ad blocking is one of the hot topics in the digital media landscape. Whilst the world argued about the ethics of it, Amnesty saw a chance to use this platform for good in a way that no one before had. It transformed a platform designed to block ads into a one-off bespoke media channel to deliver its messages on World Day Against Cyber Censorship.

At the heart of ad blocking is the desire to control your online experience. People who have downloaded one tend to be more tech savvy, concerned with online privacy and believe that the internet should be free from censorship. This made them the perfect audience for Amnesty International’s message. There was just the small issue that they are not traditional supporters of Amnesty and they are an audience that are by definition hard to get your message in front of.

By convincing AdBlock to partner with Amnesty, agency Colenso BBDO ensured that it would get their attention – all it needed to do was make sure that the message would be one they would be open to hearing. The innovative nature of this partnership also helped secure the attention of a wider audience way beyond just the AdBlock users.


To ensure this audience, who have opted out of seeing all ads, would pay attention Amnesty turned to some of the world’s most recognisable names in the fight for freedom from censorship and surveillance to tell their stories in their own words.

Enlisting Edward Snowden, Ai Weiwei and Pussy Riot, the agency created ads that clicked through to content written by these influencers on the dangers of cyber surveillance and governmental digital censorship, all driven by their personal experiences.

Launching on World Day Against Cyber Censorship, the scale of the campaign was simple – everywhere users of AdBlock went, they would see the message. They not only embraced it, they shared it with the world through their own social channels.

The seemingly counter intuitive partnership ensured that the story was picked up by news outlets around the world, ensuring the campaign was seen far beyond AdBlock’s 50 million users.

Check out the campaign video here:


On World Day Against Cyber Censorship the partnership between AdBlock and Amnesty International allowed the campaign to reach over 330 million people. Globally, Amnesty International experienced the highest levels of web traffic in the organisation’s history.

All ads were served to an audience who had actively chosen to block all advertising and yet they experienced a response rate of over 1,000% above industry benchmarks.

The highest levels of web traffic occurred in China and Russia – exactly the sort of countries that Amnesty International would usually find it hard to spread its message. This showed the power that this unique partnership with AdBlock created.

With a total campaign cost of less than $20,000 and $0 spent on paid media, the campaign generated over $7.5 million worth of earned media.

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Amnesty International
March - March 2016
Colenso BBDO
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