To coincide with Halloween, a new campaign has been launched to highlight classism in the workplace and to encourage employers to close the class pay gap.
Centred around a trailer for an upcoming horror film titled Stay Down, it acts as a clever spot created by Creature London for the Department for Opportunities – the Social Mobility Foundation's advocacy and campaigning arm.
Directed by Thomas James, the 60-second film is set in a typical corporate office and focuses on a working-class hero, played by Michael Socha, who is doing everything that's expected of him, yet still having to navigate constant subversive discrimination. Particularly from his elitist boss, played by screen legend Jonathan Hyde.
It dramatises the insidious, unseen nature of classism as a sinister presence, striving to hold him down physically and mentally while strangely sparing others around him – who are, therefore, able to continue and succeed due to their privilege. It's a disturbingly surreal yet recognisable story, wrapped up as a seemingly real upcoming blockbuster – complete with a stunning cast.
The spot follows all the conventions of a traditional movie trailer with a teasing hint at what's to come and includes a haunting cover of Radiohead's No Surprises composed by legendary Icelandic artist Högni and performed by up-and-coming Scottish-Chinese singer-songwriter Seil Lien, secured by Major Tom Music. But just as you are about to add it to your 'must watch list', the spot cuts to reveal the campaign's messaging – 'Some Horrors aren't fiction. Classism is still holding people down'.
Speaking on the creation of the campaign, John Osborne, creative director at Creature London, says: "Classism survives when it's allowed to hide in the shadows. We knew we had to continue our unexpected category approach to cut through and shine attention on the issue. To get people talking, of course, but ultimately to apply pressure on those in power holding others down simply because of their background."
Stu Outhwaite-Noel, the chief creative officer at Creature London, adds: "It's not an exaggeration to say that the barriers faced by people from a working-class background are horrifying. With this campaign, we're not just pastiching the horror film genre; we're dramatising people's actual reality: a reality that has never been more damaging and unacceptable."
Stay Down follows the success of last year's Class Polish campaign, which saw comedian Fern Brady highlight the ridiculous of classism in the workplace. This latest push takes a more sinister turn but once again sees Creature London partnering with the Department for Opportunities to create the ad. The trailer will be shown in cinemas across the UK and supported by film posters on digital OOH and in print in this Halloween's Guardian on Sunday.
Supporters include notable director Ken Loach, the British Film Institute, the Sunday Times film critic Kevin Maher, the Financial Times film critic Danny Leigh, author and columnist Yomi Adegoke and rapper and political activist Akala. The film will be released on 1 November with an exclusive screening event at the Roundhouse. It will be live-streamed and available to all by the Roundhouse, British Film Institute and the Department for Opportunities.
Sarah Atkinson from the Department for Opportunities and Social Mobility Foundation adds. "The very existence of a class pay gap is horrifying. Our campaign is designed to shock employers into action, particularly the creative and arts sectors, which have so much work to do. Our organisation focuses on practical action that drives positive outcomes; any employer who sees the campaign should get in touch because together, we can end the horror of workplace classism."
To further amplify the conversation about classism, and the Class Pay Gap, the Department of Opportunities encourages people to share their own class horror stories on Twitter and LinkedIn using the hashtag #StayDownFilm.