Advertisers Activists Collective
AIDS Accountability International (AAI) is an independent think tank that works towards equality for all and accountability from all. We believe that stronger leadership is pivotal to changing the way that systems include or exclude the powerful and the powerless.
In 2015, AAI launched the Destabilising Heteronormativity project which aims to improve access to health and other human rights for people in Africa who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer, transgender, intersex, or gender non-conforming (LGBTIQGNC) and all other forms of sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) that exist.
IN ORDER TO DO THIS, THERE NEEDS TO BE A CHANGE IN “NORMS”.
Many people think that being straight and only either male or female is how the world operates, that it is the only way to be. It is not like that for a lot of people. We need to change what people consider the norm. First, we must disrupt the status quo. Only then, can we shift people from a two-gender (male and female) binary rut and a heterosexual cliché.
IN OUR AREA OF WORK, WE CALL THAT DESTABILISING HETERONORMATIVE AND BINARY GENDER THINKING.
The associated Advertisers Activists Collective was launched in early 2016 as a means to reach out specifically to the advertising industry in Africa.
NO MORE STEREOTYPING LABELS: THE POWER OF THE ADVERTISING CREATIVE TO CHANGE NORMS
Advertisements (and those who create them and commission them) have the power to change norms and either reinforce or reverse stigma and discrimination. Whether advertisements feature women, mentally ill people, the disabled, LGBTIQ (Lesbian, Gay Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex or Queer people), or certain race groups, they can perpetuate harmful stereotypes or break them down. But the choice doesn’t have to be between non-stigmatizing and creativity, or between reaching audiences via stereotyping and serving equality. In fact, choosing to positively represent marginalized groups is not only good for equality, it can be good for brand-building.
NOT SUPPORTING EQUALITY IS NO LONGER AN OPTION.
U.S. research suggests that an estimated 10% of people there identify as LGBT, but one study found that when people were asked a more fluid question – like whether they were attracted to their same gender, this estimate doubled. According to LunchBoxMedia (LBM), 10% of South Africans – nearly 5 million people – are LGBT. In LBM’s Gay Consumer Profile survey, a massive majority of LGBT respondents (83%) said they would like to see more brands identifying with them. 45% of those surveyed said they felt that they are inaccurately portrayed by the
media, and 59% considered themselves brand-loyal.
While the number of LGBT people globally is hard to determine, as the world moves away from homophobia, more and more people will openly identify as LGBT. Of course, it is important that advertisers don’t alienate this demographic.
One US study found that “Although higher percentages of gay men and lesbians report that advertising ‘rarely’ shows people like themselves, they also have a higher propensity than non-LGBT to report that advertisements, particularly TV and magazine advertisements, can motivate them to consider buying an advertised product.”
It is critical that the advertising sector not only reach out to LGBT audiences, but that they do so in a way that rings true to LGBT people, rather than using stereotypical or mocking caricatures that hurt, alienate and stigmatise. There’s a lot at stake for the corporate world in terms of how this demographic is portrayed in advertising, but there’s also a lot at stake for society. The LGBT community suffers mental trauma and violence
as a result of stigma. Stigma directly causes the LGBT community to suffer all of the following at very high rates: bullying, emotional turmoil, suicide, homophobic laws, brutal rapes, murders and other hate crimes, and increased risk of acquiring HIV. If advertisers are not part of the solution, they are likely part of the problem.
BE ON THE RIGHT SIDE OF HISTORY
As part of AAI’s campaign to improve the way LGBT people are depicted in the media we are doing the following:
ADVERTISING INDUSTRY AWARDS: AAI is connecting with leaders in the global and local advertising industry to discuss the role that these bodies are currently playing, and could in the future play in improving human rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in South Africa and the rest of the continent.
In October 2015, the UK’s Marketing Agencies Association created the first ever advertising industry award celebrating work that supports equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, and South Africa is well suited to be the second country in the world to follow suit. Our
Constitution is one of the most equality-driven in the world. Our advertising should be as well.
LET’S EAT TOGETHER, AND TALK ABOUT LABELS: In March 2016, AAI hosted fourteen of South Africa’s key advertising creative minds at an intimate gathering to eat and talk about labels and equality. The aim was to engage these thought leaders on how advertisers can better depict and reach LGBT communities – not only to promote equality, but to be able to better reach the large LGBT market, an important and powerful demographic with buying power and brand awareness, and to identify how AAI can best support the advertising industry in doing this.
CONNECTING ADVERTISERS AND ACTIVISTS: Join the AAC: Email Lucinda@aidsaccountability.org and ask to join the Advertisers Activists Collective. We have meetings twice a year, can assist you with the content and visuals of your adverts and can generally offer expert support on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgedner issues.
GET IN TOUCH
AIDS Accountability International
Lucinda van den Heever
Tel: +27 (0)21 424 2057