A Back in Black - Racist, Rational or Happenstance?

It's a simple and undisputable fact - HIV/AIDS is pandemic in South Africa. As a result, an organization called loveLife is trying to promote safe sex through a variety of means, including outdoor advertising. However, as BET reports, the message they're sending out is getting a secondary interpretation. Click here for the story, then go here to see the other billboards in their campaign.

Your reaction?

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Anonymous Adgrunt's picture
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tlevitz's picture

I did not come away with the idea that blacks are any more promiscuous than other groups. Then again, as a white American girl from the 'burbs, I'm not sure I'm allowed to have an opinion.

What I saw was the age-old (or at least from the late 80s on) creative concern of making sure one includes every conceivable multi-cultural combo so as not leave anybody out.
Have you ever found yourself sorting thru stock photos and saying "we really need to find a Hispanic grandmother, then we'll have covered all the bases?" Working on a brochure recently, I had the creepy feeling that accounting for diversity could be a borderline rascist thing in itself.

I'd like to know which pieces ran where -- were they placed to accurately reflect the racial makeup of their environments and the audience? I think that's what really matters.

AnonymousCoward's picture

The problem I have is that the ads are clever in a Western sort of way, which can lead to problems such as this issue about stereotypes. But most of the communities in Africa that are being ravaged with AIDS suffer (through no fault of their own) from the oppression of poverty and ignorance. Sterotypes are definitely a side-effect of iconographic design, but I think that's less than the problem as a whole.
Effective ads for this cause, I believe, should be explanatory and offer up in direct fashion the two best solutions: 1. condoms, and 2. abstinance. AIDS is a huge problem in Malawi and Mozambique because of the poverty... very young women (sometimes between 12 and 16) are often drawn in by sugardaddies in order that they don't starve, and they are thus trapped in this new and dangerous life. But the ads (i.e "Everyone he's slept with...") imply a choice in relationships and lifestyles. The cause is poverty and ignorance, and I think the cute/clever approach to advertising (in these examples) does nothing to address either issue.

Dabitch's picture

exactly. these ads looks like they're aiming to get an award - not at all tackling the misinformation/myths that are a disturbing response to the lack of information about the disease in south africa so far. They really needed to make a simple, proper fact campaign - what transmits it etc, and kill some myths - rather than preach the old scare tactics. Feels off strategy (or just wrong strategy), rather than racist.

Dabitch's picture

Good comments.

It's absolutly NOT tackling the real problem - with AIDS rampant prevention is the only thing they shall preach - give out free condoms everywhere. Tell people to use them - BASTA!

tlevitz's picture

So then, advertising is not an answer / a particularly effective measure here...?

d'oh, the "award bait" angle didn't cross my mind. Back to school for me.

Dabitch's picture

I think advertising is the asnwer - but it has to tackle the real issues not fart for awards.

anonymous's picture

I have to disagree, dabitch - Farting would be a highly effective sexual deterrent. Might not translate very well into billboards, however.

Dabitch's picture


tlevitz's picture

No, really, is our humble medium enough to effect wide-sweeping societal change?

In terms of PSAa and whatnot, (for example) sophisticated teens experimenting with drugs seems like peanuts compared to the African STD/AIDS thing... an entirely different sort of audience altogether? Leave it to the khaki-clad, idealistic, Peace Corps educators... I say, somewhat sarcastically.

'Tis a heavy burden indeed... would much rather infect an entire generation with a nonsensical jingle or catch phrase... shock and awe, anyone? So much for trying to do some good via our godless trade. (Sorry, I've had a few!)

Dabitch's picture

If I didn't believe that advertising could make a wide-sweeping societal change - I wouldn't be working in this business!