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In Brazil, a woman is raped every 10 minutes, according to the annual public security and violence report published by the Institute for Applied Economic Research (IPEA). HH&Y in partnership with UMG Brazil created a nearly undetectable nail accessory that alerts the wearer and helps protect them against ingesting date rape drugs. Desperta was designed to detect substances of the amine category—which have nitrogen in their chemical structure—by changing color. 

This is not a solution to the problem. The ultimate solution would be the eradication of acts of rape and an understanding that the responsibility for these attacks falls on the attacker and not the victims. However, as a step in the right direction, and a way for people to add a layer of assurance and protection to their social activities, now all it takes to determine if your drink was spiked is to dip a finger in it. Laura Florence, Executive Creative Director at Havas Health & You, shares the story behind the creation of the Desperta campaign.


How did this idea come to be, was there a certain event or insight that inspired the invention of the Desperta nail sticker?

HH&Y and UMG both wanted to use our knowledge and influence to help decrease violent acts against women here in Brazil. We have an innovation program called Hbox, where we have a unique methodology to generate proactive ideas that can solve problems of society through our brands and products. This is how we test new technologies and methodologies. UMG has always worked with us on this program and we partner in other innovative ideas that will be launched soon. The process of Desperta was very fast. Once this briefing was released, many, many ideas came up. But Desperta! was the one we thought would generate the impact we wanted and has the power to help solve the problem.

Can you give some background on the statistics and facts to understand how large of a problem this is in Brazil, Latin America, and around the world?

The numbers in Brazil are worrying: a woman is raped every 10 minutes but only 1% of attackers are punished. One of the most common scams is to spike the victim’s drink with “date rape drugs.” They attack the central nervous system causing loss of consciousness and amnesia. The predator generally approaches the victim in night clubs. 

The political and social climate in Brazil today is marked by conservatism. Minority groups such as LGBTQ+ and women are losing important rights. Women are expected to have certain conduct—30% of men believe that a woman who dresses provocatively cannot complain if she’s raped. Victim-blaming and slut-shaming reinforce the rape culture installed in society, that’s why most of the victims do not report the crime. When rape happens, the first thing that goes through people’s minds is to question whether the woman is actually speaking the truth. It’s clear that there is a stark contradiction in Brazil, while women are more educated and there are laws that ultimately advocate for them, there is sexism rooted in the culture that puts women in an inferior position, encouraging men to think they own women’s bodies. 

How did UMG Brazil and HH&Y work together to create Desperta and what was the process like working together?

We then had three big challenges: challenge the rape culture, generate an understanding of the problem, and create a solution that would leave no doubts that women are telling the truth. 

We created a product and a music video to meet these challenges. Desperta is a tool to empower women to uncover the crime and acts as a powerful message amplifier. To convey the right message we invited Malia, an activist and one of the most promising singers of the new generation in Brazil, to specially compose and sing an anthem to raise awareness of the problem. The music video here has three roles to fight this very serious social issue: decrease the crime incidence by scaring off predators, popularize the science and bring new allies to the cause, and protect as many women as possible.

As soon as we got the idea for the nail stickers, we figured out we needed a powerful way to launch the message because just spreading the news that the product exists is a way to inhibit the crime from being committed. Music was a natural choice. UMG entered into the process early on, curated the artist, and created the lyrics and melody. Malia participated in the creation of the lyrics with the sound producer, Mugshot. We discussed each sentence together. They also participated in the music video storytelling. It was truly a collaboration and a team effort. 

How was the name “Desperta” chosen for this product?

“Desperta” in Portuguese has a double meaning: to be awake, but also to be smart and alert. This is exactly what the product does.

How does it work?

Desperta, a discreet nail decoration can help detect if a drink has been drugged. When the predator isn’t looking, a woman dips her fingernail into her drink. She will know her drink has been spiked if the color of the sticker changes.

These are the steps:

  1.   Paste on your fingernail
  2.   Dip your finger in the drink for 5 seconds
  3.   If the color changes, the drink is contaminated

Our effort was to create a tool that could, in fact, be used discreetly and ensure a women’s safety. The consequences of a woman being caught testing can be as violent as the crime. Putting your finger in the drink is a quick and easy action in a bar or nightclub situation where everything is dark, confusing, and the woman may have only one hand available.

A nail sticker was the best solution because it’s already used as a fashion accessory, making it indistinguishable from a regular one. The connection between usability, efficacy, and targeting a specific behavior is what makes our product unique.

How is this product being advertised and sold? There is a song written to go along with the launch, why did the team choose this method?

Music has historically fueled social change and rallied support around important causes. The song Good Night, Good Nightwas composed specially to create awareness of the problem and it talks about respect for women and their bodies. It was cowritten and performed by Malia, one of the most promising singers of the new generation in Brazil. 

Our strategy was hacking different systems: that of rape culture, attention of the general population, and of mass production. We are spreading the news via an exclusive song, avoiding traditional formats and guaranteeing people’s attention in a timeline full of information. We also thought about a new system of production. Desperta’s formula is available to be mass-produced by several brands so that we can help as many women as possible. In our first awareness phase, we can say that we have curbed the crime because now the criminal knows that he can be caught. The more brands that unite towards this cause the easier it will be to help eradicate spiked drink crimes.

Desperta isn’t a solution, because ultimately the responsibility is on the predators, not the victims. That said, what is your stance on how Desperta aims to help in the context of this broader issue?

Desperta does not place a responsibility on the victim’s hand, but rather it is an instrument of protection. Of course, the state and society can protect women and punish aggressors. But in practice, this still does not happen. Meanwhile, women have the right to go out at night and may desire an extra layer of protection, Desperta is blatant proof. A woman doesn’t have to worry if the police will doubt her, a common situation in police stations throughout Brazil. 

What do you hope changes in the future when it comes to the use of date rape drugs and as women continue to achieve social and economic power in Latin American culture and around the world?

The culture of rape is totally connected to toxic masculinity. To keep women safe, we must raise our boys differently. Aggression is the result of some frustration. As an idea, ​​gender equality is spreading more and more, and many men find themselves threatened, through aggression, men can create a testosterone-fueled warlike image, closer to the “man” sexist culture has subliminally built for so many years. Deconstructing this image is the best path forward for gender equality. When men can cry, feel emotions, and reveal their vulnerability, the world will be better for everyone, both men and women.

Anything else you would like to share about the issue of sexual assault, date rape drugs, and the Desperta! campaign?

Any company that wants to partner with the Desperta initiative can find us at

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