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The Laws of Gilead

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Based on Margaret Atwood’s 1985 novel, The Handmaid’s Tale, the narrative is set in a dystopian near-future United States, renamed Gilead, where a religious fundamentalist group has taken control to create an oppressive regime where women have no rights and are subjugated into forced reproduction. 

Amidst a wave of socio-political relevancy, Hulu was counting on The Handmaid’s Tale to be its breakout show, solidifying its position as a premium content producer.  

It had a natural role in the women’s rights conversation, but it needed to tread carefully.  

Social analysis following a politically charged Super Bowl ad-mosphere told UM that spots like Airbnb #weaccept got the most positive sentiment (over 64% positive) citing an authentic message using its own diverse staff members. 

Insight #1: While most people respect brands that take a stand, it must be done with empathy and care. To stay authentic, the discussion had to be led by women, not Hulu. Next, in a world where the majority of women feel misunderstood by marketers, it simply listened to what women had to say about The Handmaid’s Tale. Social media conversation analysis led to the next crucial insight:  

Insight #2: Amidst the 2017 Women’s Marches, many activists were comparing today’s socio-political climate to the laws of Gilead. 


Armed with these insights, UM worked with female-centric partners to create a campaign using their voices to drive conversation about the laws of Gilead. 

To ensure authenticity the agency worked with these partners to create over 20 custom content pieces and experiences, across multiple touch points. 

It juxtaposed the shocking rules of the dystopian world, while also leaning into the message of hope and perseverance, personified by the show’s protagonist, Offred. 

Since the story chronicles Offred’s survival in this authoritarian world, the goal was to contextualise Gilead’s restrictions in the context of today. 

UM focused on three laws of Gilead to activate its partnerships:  
• Law #1 - Women do not have a voice in society 
• Law #2 - Women are not allowed to read 
• Law #3 - Women must wear the colour of their caste.  

To ensure authenticity, it chose partners most relevant to each law and asked them to illustrate the impact for their audiences. 

The agency maintained conversation and top-of-mind awareness throughout the three-month episodic release by boosting visibility each Wednesday before new episodes dropped with high impact digital, outdoor, and video placements. 


Law #1: Women do not have a voice in society 

UM sought partners that give women a voice in culture. At SXSW, an annual entertainment festival, female street teams quietly roamed the grounds dressed as handmaids wearing long red cloaks, creating a stark visual of a culture where women are powerless. Partnering with pop-culture powerhouse, NYLON Magazine, it also hosted an empowerment party at SXSW with female performers and lifted women’s voices through an interactive tweet wall and custom women’s rights editorial. 

Law #2: Women are not allowed to read  

For this law, it provoked literati and fans of Atwood’s novel. Ironically, The Handmaid’s Tale was once-banned, so the agency put 6,000 copies into the hands of New Yorkers. Geo-targeted social and local DJ promotion encouraged visitors to take the books for free from an art installation in the city. Ozy, the digital magazine of the ‘Change Generation,’ explored the world’s most infamous banned books and projected what America would be like if women weren’t allowed to read. 

Law #3: Women must wear the colour of their caste  

In Gilead, clothing colours have symbolism. So UM went to fashion frontrunner, Vogue, to host an immersive costume exhibit. Industry bloggers were invited to take a closer look at the show’s evocative costumes, followed by a discussion with costume designer, Ane Crabtree, about the symbolism tied to each colourIt engaged Vanity Fair to create custom editorial revealing the symbolism of the colour red and explored fashion being used as a political statement. 


In its first week, The Handmaid’s Tale became the most-viewed premiere of any series – original or acquired – on Hulu. This was attributed to the extraordinary cultural buzz created during the lead up to launch.  

The agency tracked social conversation volumes for competitive shows with female-skewing audiences and/or socio-political themes in the months prior and during the campaign period. The Handmaid’s Tale achieved over 1.8 billion earned social impressions during launch week, compared with the second place 13 Reasons Why which came in at 790M during its respective launch week. 

Halfway through the series, the campaign was still driving buzz and audience demand. According to third party research by Parrot Analytics, the show topped the chart for weekly demand impressions amongst NEW season one streaming originals, (second only to House of Cards Season five, which had an existing fan base). 

The Handmaid’s Tale reached the highest awareness levels ever seen for a new Hulu Original series. Awareness among non-subscribers reached 158% of its goal, and surpassed the stretch goal by 14%. Awareness among existing subscribers also surpassed goals by 20%. 

The day-of premiere drove the single highest daily subscriptions to Hulu year to date.  

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The Handmaid's Tale
Brand Owner:
Publishing & Broadcasting
United States
February - July 2017
Media Channel:
  • FMAs shortlisted

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