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  • Kate Fielding

A weekend in Istanbul and reflecting on the counterintuitive campaign

Last weekend, I was lucky enough to be in Istanbul, celebrating 20 years since I first met my husband.


Istanbul is a city of contrasts, where East and West and ancient and modern rub shoulders in fascinating ways. As we explored, I remembered learning many years ago about Kemal Ataturk’s campaign to modernise Turkey when he came to power. Amongst sweeping reforms covering most aspects of life, he included regulations designed to secularise dress. 

What came next was a fascinating study in communications and psychology. Though he introduced laws for men’s attire, Ataturk steered clear of dictating women’s dress, though he wanted to discourage wearing the burqa. In a surprise move, he made it compulsory for prostitutes to wear the full veil in public, a tactic which saw rapid results as many acted to dissociate themselves from the profession, as much as lay claim to a new, progressive identity.


As communicators, we often need to take a step back, and consider the counterintuitive and indirect ways to get the results we want. Those working to engage people in the environment and conservation, in particular, are grappling with the challenge of audiences tuning out or feeling helpless in the face of climate breakdown and biodiversity loss. Success stories which centre optimism and hope may, conversely, motivate greater action. 

On the flip side, we sometimes run a risk that tackling issues head on can leave us further back than where we started, if they trigger an adverse or contrary reaction - chicken nugget, anyone?


It's human nature in all its contradictions and variety that makes a communicator's job so fascinating. What are your favourite examples of campaigns that took the indirect route? Or missed the mark with a too blunt call to action?

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