Advertisers activists collective-2016 - ongoing
The power of the advertising creative to change norms
The Advertisers Activists Collective (AAC) was launched by AI in early 2016 as a means to reach out specifically to the advertising industry in Africa on LGBT issues.
In 2015, AI 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 and expression (SOGIE) that exist.
The AAC is the arm of this work that works specifically with the advertising industry.
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.
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.
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 March 2016, AI hosted fourteen of South Africa’s key advertising creative minds at an intimate gathering to eat and talk about labels and equality. Read more here
The #EqualityChallenge 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.
LGBT rights are laid out in many national, regional and international laws, resolutions and codes which speak to equality, non-discrimination, dignity, non-violence and protection of the law.
This document maps out the most important commitments for advertisers, marketers and Businesses to know about (International, regional and national laws, and the South African Advertising Code on LGBT Rights & Equality) AI AAC EqualityChallenge Legal Context FINAL JAN 2018
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.
For more info contact: Czerina Patel, Accountability International (AI)
107 Greenmarket Place, 54 Shortmarket Street, Cape Town 8000, South Africa
Email: [email protected]
Further Information and Media Releases
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: AIDS ACCOUNTABILITY INTERNATIONAL EqualityChallenge Guidelines Final Jan 2018
The legal context to the #EqualityChallenge guidelines is outlined here AI AAC EqualityChallenge Legal Context FINAL JAN 2018
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: [email protected]
 Accountability International (AI) and the Advertisers Activists Collective (AAC) use the shorter and well-known abbreviations “LGBT” or “LGBTIQ” to refer to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Intersex, Queer and Gender Non-Conforming people (LGBTIQGNC) and all people of minority sexual orientation and gender identities and expressions (SOGIEs).
 AAC is an informal body of NGOs, activists and advertisers who meet and collaborate to promote LGBTIQ equality in advertising. NGO partners include AIDS Accountability International, AMSHeR, Gender DynamiX, House of Rainbow, INERELA+, Southern Africa Trans Forum and the University of the Witwatersrand. The AAC is part of AAI’s Destabilising Heteronormativity Project and is supported by the Ford Foundation.
 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/
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).
At a dinner in March 2016, activists met with EDs, Creative Directors and senior creatives from nine of the top ad agencies in SA: Joe Public, King James Group, 140BBDO, Saatchi & Saatchi, Quirk/Quirk Digital, The Creative Counsel, Ninety9cents, M & C Saatchi Abel and Jupiter Drawing Room.
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.