In 2009, Honduras became the only Latin American country to ban the morning after pill, threatening to jail women who took it for emergency contraception. An activist Honduran group had worked for many years to repeal the ban, with little to show for their work except vilification and abuse, before coming to visit the ad agency Ogilvy Honduras.
The award-winning ad campaign the agency developed for Grupo Estratégico para la Pastilla Anticonceptiva de Emergencia brought international attention and finally got the government’s attention. And on March 8, 2023, the ban was officially ended.
“The journey [to develop the campaign] began by knocking on the doors of several governmental and diplomatic offices, one-on-one lobbying with stakeholders, and meetings with GPAE allies,” creative director Cesar Chinchilla told Little Black Book in 2022, after returning from Cannes with some of advertising’s highest awards for the Morning After Island campaign.
Despite the statistics showing that 330,000 underage girls had become mothers since the ban was instituted, and that “one out of every four Honduran women and girls will become pregnant before turning 18, half raped by the men closest to them,” the agency encountered closed door after closed door in the conservative country.
“That’s what sparked the idea: any possible solution would require that we leave our home territory.” They built a floating wooden island, just outside Honduran jurisdiction, and each week, GEPAE took women there by boat to take the pill without fear of being prosecuted.
Ogilvy created a video campaign encouraging people to sign a petition for change. More than two million people signed it, 180 million people saw the videos, and 280 million people saw news stories about the Morning After Island. The campaign gained more than $30 million in free coverage as hundreds of media outlets in more than 15 countries covered it.
On International Women’s Day, GEPAE was invited to a televised public meeting with Honduran President Xiomara Castro, who called on congress to draft legislation defending the sexual, reproductive and civil rights of three million Honduran women.
It was a powerful result that the agency had achieved for its client. “For the first time ever (on International Women’s Day), we earned our client a long-denied seat at the table,” said Mr. Chinchilla. “That day, GEPAE discussed the future of women’s rights directly with the executive, reaching an agreement on several issues. Perhaps most importantly, finalising the creation of the Ministry of Women’s Rights, which will be a cornerstone to achieving our long-term goal.”
In October 2022, the “Morning After Island” campaign received another major global distinction. It was awarded the Platinum SABRE Award for Best in Show at the Global SABRE Awards ceremony celebrating the best campaigns and agencies from around the world.
“Our top 40 campaigns — the top 1% of all the entries we received last year — are all the best of the best,” said Paul Holmes, who chaired the SABRE jury. “But there was something really special about ‘Morning After Island,’ which was an almost unanimous pick for number one: a campaign with a simple but brilliant creative idea that had a meaningful impact on not just the healthcare options of women in Honduras but on their status in that society.”
In December 2022, the Honduran government approved a protocol allowing the use of emergency contraception for survivors of sexual violence. And on March 8, 2023, President Castro signed an executive order ending the ban on use and sale of the morning after pill.
How Ogilvy Honduras Changed National Conversation – and Potentially Jurisdiction – with ‘Morning After Island’. Little Black Book, Aug. 8, 2022
“Morning After Island” From Ogilvy Honduras Wins Best In Show At Global SABREs. Provoke Media, Oct. 27, 2022
Glass: The Lion for Change. Cannes Lions.
Touch the Pickle: Marketing Gender Equality. Under the Influence, CBC Radio, Mar. 23, 2023
Honduras lifts decade-long ban on ‘morning after pill’. Reuters, Mar. 9, 2023