There is a rather insidious belief out there that advertising can change the way we think. I say insidious because I think that belief is promulgated largely by the advertising industry itself.
The proof lies in many places but let’s look at drink-driving as an example. When it comes to advertising, the NZ Transport Agency has incredibly deep pockets and they produce heaps of advertising, such as this campaign. They have a plethora of leading advertising agencies working for them but people are still dying on our roads, with 2017 being one of the worst.
Advertising campaigns for this subject have merely tapped into existing latent beliefs that drink-driving is fundamentally wrong. But a lot of people don't care and advertising won't change the way they think. This is true of smoking, hunting, global warming, gun control, social welfare, shark finning, recycling, whaling, drug abuse, animal welfare, veganism, and homophobia.
Which brings us to this advertisement for Rainbow Youth. Have you seen it?
It’s saying that the use of the word gay (in a LGBTIQ context) is still too often used in a derogatory sense and we need to change the way we think of it and the way we use it.
Well, society has already done the first: the word gay has long since lost its original meaning. Gay will remain a description, a slight and a celebration. Like the LGBTIQ community that embraced it, it is stronger for its diversity.
Rainbow Youth have stated on their Facebook page that the derogatory use of gay “contributes to much larger issues - homophobia, biphobia and transphobia”. In essence, Rainbow Youth have said that the derogatory use of the word gay is a gateway to hatred. But somewhere in New Zealand, someone disagrees, and changing their view, especially through advertising, is an immense challenge.
Setting aside the approach taken by Rainbow Youth’s advert, one must ask how its success will be measured? It’s likely that there is no baseline measurement for how often the word gay is used in an offensive manner, so there’ll likely be no comparison at the completion of the campaign to measure its effectiveness in reducing homophobia.
Yes, there was a lot of national and global media coverage and the ad was viewed a million times on Rainbow Youth’s Facebook page, but is it creating meaningful change or is it merely preaching to the converted? Does anyone really know?
Research Now, an online market research company, surveyed 2,715 global marketers in June 2017 to examine how they measured the effectiveness of their campaigns. Their research stated that "The outcome of a campaign isn’t going to mean anything if it wasn’t set up correctly in the first place". Honestly, you don't need a research company to tell you this. I read through their full report (you can read it here) and it's no surprise that an increase in sales rated as most important for the measurement of advertising. Measurement is easier (slightly) when you're measuring how many burgers or sneakers you sell in a month but when you're trying to change the way people think, it's a lot harder.
Surely Rainbow Youth, as a representative of the LGBTIQ community, deserve to be able to move forward with more effective advertising in the future by being able to analyse, understand, and adjust their campaigns based on what has been done before? Don’t say it can’t be done because the LGBTIQ community have overcome tougher challenges.