Advertisers Activists Collective: 2016 - Ongoing
The power of the advertising creative to change norms
The Advertisers Activists Collective (AAC) was launched by Accountability International in early 2016 as a means to reach out specifically to the advertising industry in Africa on LGBTIQ issues. Advertisers play a central role in changing the hearts and minds of the public through their work.
Over the course of this project, Accountability International trained over 400 advertising staff in South Africa on LGBTIQ matters and human rights issues. Simply put, the project had a powerful impact on four levels:
1. Stereotypical, discriminatory and stigmatising adverts and existing campaigns ended.
2. The respectful inclusion of LGBTIQ people in adverts increased.
3. Visibility of LGBTIQ poeple in advertising increased as more adverts depicted LGBTIQ relevant storylines.
4. The workplace environment in advertising companies improved for LGBTIQ people.
Now in 2021, we begin a new journey! We will begin training advertisers on matters pertaining to criminalisation. We do this as a means to ensuring that people, identities and behaviours that are criminalised are understood by the advertising staff and portrayed in ways that are not harmful, but constructive, non-discriminatory and inclusive. Watch this space as we begin a new pathway to diversity, equity and inlcusion and human rights for all!
The Advertisers Activists Colelctive started as a part of the Destabilising Hetronormativity project.
The #EqualityChallenge aims to change adverts in Africa
The #EqualityChallenge advertisers’ guidelines are meant as a framework to help advertisers, marketers, businesses and SOGIE (sexual orientation and gender identity and expression) activists work together to make equality, dignity, freedom and security a reality for the millions of LGBT people living in South Africa and the rest of Africa. Together, we can create new understandings of society that include everyone, that will help South Africa’s constitution, the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights be more than hopeful words, and that can spread the values of inclusion and human rights for all, enshrined in these legal instruments, to societies throughout Africa.
Advertisers, marketers and businesses can improve outcomes for individuals, businesses and society by being equality allies, and by considering the effect their messaging has on the LGBT community. Countering stigma and regularly showing LGBT people in non-discriminatory ways in ads will reduce violence and improve the safety, health and social inclusion of the LGBT community.
Ad agencies should create, innovate, and take risks. They should be on the right side of justice and create work that matters and that helps, rather than hurts. Knowing that advertisements shape how society views itself, and how people treat others, advertisers and the businesses they represent should create messaging, campaigns and social experiments that break down stigma and promote equality.
They can and must also call on the public to be proponents of LGBTIQGNC (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Intersex, Queer, and Gender Non-Conforming) equality – from changing the way people think about LGBT people, to inspiring them to be allies, to convincing them to not be bystanders to, or worse, perpetrators of, discrimination. The world needs creativity, guts and conviction in abundance from those who shape how we see the world.
The #EqualityChallenge speaks to five guidelines:
Read the full #EqualityChallenge Guidelines here:
Find out more about the #EQUALITYGUIDELINES here
Join the AAC: Email and ask to join the Advertisers Activists Collective. We can assist you with the content and visuals of your adverts and can generally offer expert support on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues, criminalisation, and human rights.
For more info contact: Phillipa Tucker
Email: info AT accountability DOT international
Further Information and Media Releases
As part of our work with advertisers, Accountability International developed the #EqualityChallenge Guidelines. But the #EqualityChallenge is NOT just for advertisers!
We should all be on the right side of justice and work and live in ways that matters and that helps, rather than hurts.
We all know that how we work, create, educate our children, treat our friends, and talk to others has an impact on society. Our daily behaviour determines whether lesbian, gay, bisexual transgender, queer and gender non-conforming people (LGBTIQGNC) are included or not. It determines whether LGBT* people get housing, a job, schooling, access to health and even whether we are beaten up.
We all need to play a role in shaping how society functions, how people treat others, and we all need to break down stigma and promote equality.
We need first to change the way we think about LGBT people, and then be inspiring to others as allies to LGBTQGNC people. We cannot be bystanders, the world is changing and we all need to be a part of this shift. And we need to learn so we are not ourselves perpetrators of, discrimination! The world needs creativity, guts and conviction from everyone to ensure all LGBT* people are included always!
Download the latest document here.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: JANUARY 30, 2018
South African Advertisers Embrace New LGBTIQ-Equality Initiative
Advertisers in Africa have an opportunity to be on the forefront of LGBTIQ(1) equality, says Accountability International. The organisation, through its Advertisers Activists Collective (AAC)(2), has just published a set of five “#EqualityChallenge” guidelines (3)intended to help advertisers, marketers and businesses in Africa improve the depiction and representation of LGBTIQ people in ads.
“Besides the exciting and powerful opportunity that advertisers have to promote equality, advertisers and business leaders also have a clear responsibility to avoid any messaging that discriminates or stereotypes,” says Lucinda van den Heever, Project Manager of AI’s Destabilising Heteronormativity project. Van den Heever says that the protection of people with diverse sexual orientation and gender identities and expressions (SOGIEs) is outlined in key global and regional commitments, resolutions and legal frameworks including the South African Constitution(4), the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights’ Resolution 275(5) and the Advertising Code of Practice of the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) of South Africa(6).
Violent hate crimes are rampant throughout Africa. The AAC argues that the advertising industry is well-placed to reduce stigma, and ultimately to help reduce discrimination and hate crime. “The advertising industry is strongly influential in how society views the world and those around them,” says Czerina Patel, AAC Initiative Manager, “Ads can create stigma and further discrimination by perpetuating stereotypes and making fun of LGBTIQ people, or they can help promote equality by honestly and positively reflecting society’s diversity which will break down stigma and help end the marginalisation of minority groups.”
“It is imperative to engage with powerful institutions and shift the way they think about gender and sexuality,” says van den Heever, “We must recognise that we do not live in a world of only two genders – male and female – and only one sexual orientation. The heterosexual bias and narrow gender binary repeatedly depicted across most advertising is a false and incomplete picture of what the world actually is.”
The #EqualityChallenge asks advertisers to 1) do no harm (not to stereotype or stigmatise); 2) show the world as it really is (showing a diversity of SOGIEs); 3) push LGBTIQ diversity in culture and religion (and in ads that depict cultural, faith, religious or spiritual settings; 4) build their LGBTIQ teams and alliances; and 5) further education amongst themselves and the public about LBGTIQ rights and issues.
AAI launched this collaborative effort with advertisers when they convened creative directors and executives from nearly a dozen of South Africa’s top advertising agencies in Cape Town in 2016, seeking to create a dialogue and partnership to end LGBTIQ-stereotyping and stigma inducing advertisements and to inspire advertisers to become change agents for equality.
The King James Agency, a 20-year old independent South African creative agency, was the first to endorse the guidelines. Founding Creative Partner, Alistair King, has been an ambassador for the AAC since 2016 and has pledged to help motivate other agencies to follow suit.
“Over and above its responsibility to its clients, the ad industry has a greater obligation to humankind as a whole,” says King, “We have such immense media power at our disposal, and we absolutely must use it to challenge conventions, reframe harmful and archaic social norms, and ultimately help create a more progressive and enlightened view of our world. There has never been a more essential time for advertising to be a positive and embracing force for good.”
“We’re so proud to have Alistair and King James Agency as partners and ambassadors in this work,” says Patel, “This work has to have advertising leaders at the helm for it to be sustainable, expansive and impactful.”
Another South African advertiser which has welcomed this effort is Joe Public United. The agency was recently in the news for creating a groundbreaking and inclusive ad for Nedbank, which has since gone viral, and which includes many diverse characters – including a woman with disabilities and a trans woman(7) .
Joe Public’s Chief Creative Officer, Xolisa Dyeshana, promises that Joe Public will be an ally to the work the AAC is doing with advertisers, and says this effort “is paramount and will go a long way in ensuring that advertising and marketing people who shape so many attitudes in society are conscious of inclusion, equality and diversity in the messages they put out to the public.”
Earlier this month, AAI and the AAC presented the first-ever training on the #EqualityChallenge guidelines to 35 members of Joe Public’s creative and human resources teams.
“I was amazed by the impact the training had and how people were engaged with the subject,” says Joe Public Art Director, Tshepo Mogorosi, who participated in the training, “People should learn about these things, especially people in the advertising industry because we are the people that can change other people’s behaviour and influence it…I feel it’s important for me as an advertising individual to familiarise myself with some of the people who are not being represented in ads and try to change that because we are all equal as human beings.”
Dyeshana says the #EqualityChallenge guidelines training in which Joe Public staff were taught everything from what’s the difference between gender identity and gender expression, to why terms like “corrective rape” are harmful and should be avoided, to the importance of not putting society into male/female binary boxes, was “an eye-opener” for all of the staff who participated. Dyeshana also said that it was refreshing to hear words like “androgynous”, “transgender”, “intersex” and “LGBTI” being used freely in Joe Public’s corridors following the training: “I believe it is a sign of great things to come.”
AAI and the AAC are welcoming all advertising agencies and businesses to endorse the guidelines and will be reaching out to agencies and businesses working in Africa in the coming months, offering trainings on the #EqualityChallenge and on how they too can be allies in the movement for LGBTIQ equality.
Patel says King James and Joe Public are instrumental partners in this work as they will help guide the effort to make the #EqualityChallenge accessible for the advertising and business world and they will help bring other agencies on board: “Ultimately, we want every advertising agency in Africa to take the #EqualityChallenge pledge, to embrace and endorse these guidelines, and to work to further LGBTIQ equality. With the support of inspirational, committed, justice-oriented and talented creatives like Alistair King and Xolisa Dyeshana, and the agencies they represent, this ambitious goal feels reachable.”
Accountability International (AI)
Advertisers Activists Collective (AAC) Initiative Manager
Email: info at accountability dot international
http://www.aidsaccountability.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/AIDS-Accountability-Int-Advertisers-Activists-Collective-Equalitychallenge.pdf https://www.acts.co.za/constitution_of_/2__bill_of_rights  Resolution 275 on Protection against Violence and other Human Rights Violations against Persons on the basis of their real or imputed Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity: http://www.achpr.org/sessions/55th/resolutions/275/  http://www.asasa.org.za/codes/advertising-code-of-practice/section-ii-general  https://mg.co.za/article/2017-11-17-00-transgender-ad-breaks-through https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m2Dw6gWY774
Joe Public & Nedbank release equality driven advert in South Africa
Accountability International, as part of the Advertisers Activists Collective* (AAC) & Destabilising Heteronormativity Project, has been working with advertisers to promote LGBT** (Lesbian Gay Bisexual & Trans) equality & the positive-visibility of sexually diverse people in advertising across Africa. This refers both to ending stereotyping in advertising and depicting LGBT people positively in ads, so that ads are more representative of society, and less hetero-normative and cis-normative.
Joe Public United is one of the advertising agencies we’ve been working with, and we are thrilled to share this new and groundbreaking ad, created by Joe Public, for Nedbank, one of South Africa’s largest banks. The Nedbank Money App ad celebrates equality, freedom and creativity and represents South Africans with diversity and open-thinking at the forefront. Whether one is looking at South Africa as a whole, or at Nedbank’s customers, we are a diverse people and this Nedbank ad reflects this.
Showing all kinds of South Africans in this poetic and inspirational ad, from a trans woman to a person with a disability, Nedbank is not only representing the diversity of its customers, but also promoting equality by showing people who too often are left out of the media’s portrayal of our world, particularly in Africa, and doing so in ways that are both non-stigmatising and empowering. This ad also embraces intersectionality – joining race, sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI), socio-economic status, disability, gender, and age.
So many of the messages in this SEE MONEY DIFFERENTLY ad by Nedbank resonate with the work we are doing to change the way people think – from unlearning and reimagining, to giving voice in safe spaces. We think all brands should be leading with inclusivity and we applaud Nedbank for being a pioneer in Africa in this regard. Check out this two-minute cinematographic cutting-edge ad and please share with others:
Click on the image below to watch full advert.
* The Advertisers Activists Collective (AAC) consists of advertisers, marketers and activists, who work together to promote LGBT equality in advertising, especially in Africa. The NGOs that are part of the AAC include AI, Gender Dynamix, The Southern African Trans Forum, the University of Witwatersrand, AMSHeR and House of Rainbow. The Destabilising Heteronormativity Project is supported by the Ford Foundation.
*AI uses the short and well-known LGBT or sexually diverse terminology to refer to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Intersex, Queer and Gender Non-Conforming people (LGBTIQGNC).
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.
AAI hosted the Let’s Eat Together Dinner to get advertisers to understand the need for them to play a pivotal role in LGBT rights becoming a reality.
Following the dinner, we continued working closely with King James Advertising and Alistair King to identify opportunities and best next steps.
Read the full #EqualityChallenge Guidelines here:
Find out more about the #EQUALITYGUIDELINES here