Monday, February 03, 2014

Advocating change

The video above is advocacy advertising, a highly specialised form of political advertising. Posted the end of January, it tries to get viewers to see the issue it addresses from a different perspective. I think it’s a good example of such advertising.

The issue the ad is addressing is the use of racist names for Native Americans in the names of US sports teams, specifically, the Washington Redskins NFL team. Many Native Americans consider the name racist and offensive and want it changed, but the owners of what is apparently the third most profitable team in the NFL have refused.

In May of last year, the Associated Press reported on a poll that found that 79% of Americans didn’t think the Redskins should change their name, and only 11% did. This is the real barrier that advocates of change face: They’ll never convince the owners to change the name unless there’s public clamour to do so, and there clearly isn’t.

So the ad above attempts to get viewers to look at Native Americans as varied people who call themselves by many names—but not the offensive one the team uses. It’s effective at doing that.

However, this ad doesn’t give those 79% any further understanding of why the team’s name is offensive, and so, why it should be changed. A good campaign could include the basic awareness ad above, then, in further ads they could explain why the name is offensive and should be changed. The point is, they have a massive majority of people who don’t agree with them, and they need to bring more people onto their side if they are to succeed.

This is the way movement politics works: When masses of people oppose something that a minority wants, it’s necessary to make the majority, first, see the minority as real people, then, as people they care about and identify with in some way. That’s when change happens.

Opponents of change will attempt to belittle the desired change, to demonise its advocates and even dehumanise those who are offended. The opponents of change will puff out their chests with all the sense of entitlement that comes from their privileged position in society and speak their opposition all the louder, assuming everyone thinks as they do.

We know all this because it’s the way movement politics have been working for decades, and there’s no reason to expect the playbook, so to speak, will change on this or any other change issue.

Which is why effective advocacy advertising is so important. That importance to the political process makes it interesting to me, of course, and I even did preliminary work on a new blog just looking at and analysing all the political issue messaging that pops up on the Internet and in social media. One day I may take another look at that.

For now, though, I saw this video today and thought it was an effective advocacy ad, as long as there are more to follow. I’m sure there will be, too, because this issue isn’t going away.

No comments: