Select Page

Cyber Pandemic of Weaponising Words

The Covid-19 Pandemic’s ‘social distancing’ has starkly underlined the ‘social distancing’ of another Pandemic: The Pandemic of viral, ‘social dissing’.

As witnessed lately in headline news, advertising revenue driven social media enterprises have come under severe pressure for hosting posts of hate speech. The pressure that has building up steam for some time, has boiled over lately with the #StopHateForProfit campaign.

Morally unacceptable business practices have resulted in major brands, locally and internationally, demonstrating their disdain by cancelling their advertising exposure on unethical social platforms.

The result has been an on-going loss of advertising revenue for social media networks amounting to billions of US dollars. Echoing the prevailing sentiment of corporate advertisers, James Quincey, chairman and CEO of Coca-Cola, was quoted as saying:

“We expect greater accountability and transparency from our social media partners.”

1. Coca-Cola, Open

Advertising Agency: Wieden+Kennedy, London, UK

One of the hugely unfortunate side effects of well-meaning social media objectives of bringing the world closer together, is that it has also facilitated the building of the complete opposite; platforms for belligerent discourses of weaponised words by hate and race merchants, and spurious demogogues.

Unchecked, the flames of divisive bigotry, antagonism and alienation have been allowed to spread rapidly with dire consequences for many people across the globe.

Superbly directed by Steve Rogers and starring American actress, director, writer, and producer Natasha Lyonne, Coca-Cola’s purpose driven ‘Open’ commercial, beckons an antagonistic world to just chill and take stock.

The highly amusing film scenario that includes a metaphorical confrontation between two superheroes, cleverly underlines a serious message of challenging social media protagonists by asking if they ever considered the possibility of their utterances being on the wrong side of history.

On ‘The Drum’ magazine’s online portal, Coca-Cola’s Western Europe marketing director Walter Susini expounded on the rationale of the commercial:

“The positioning, ‘Better when we’re open’, aims to act as a rallying call to unite the world that the Coca-Cola Company believes is becoming increasingly divisive”.

2. Telekom, No Hate Speech

Advertising Agency: DDB, Hamburg, Germany

The sense of fear and isolation of young man’s experiences of Cyber bullying, and his efforts to rise above weaponised words and messaging, have been powerfully and emotively captured in this true story portrayal by filmmaker and director Kim Geldenhuys.

Headquartered in Bonn, and the largest telecommunications provider in Europe, the brutal reality of the story underlines Telekom Germany’s concerted efforts in working with various partner initiatives, to expose the effects of cyber bullying and fight for a hate-free Internet.

3. Philips, Shave To Remember

Advertising Agency: Ogilvy, Johannesburg, South Africa

Philips teamed up with The Nelson Mandela Foundation for an inspirational commercial of topical relevance using the revered South African President’s own words.

As Barack Obama remarked in his centenary memorial speech: “We will never see the likes of Nelson Mandela again. But let me say to the young people of Africa and the young people around the world, you too can make his life’s work your own.”

Directed by Kim Geldenhuys the underlying narrative of the #ShavetoRemember call to action, is to pay a tribute to the ‘Mandela’ everyone has in them by acquiring the Nobel Peace Prize Laureate’s distinctive, shaved-line haircut of his younger years as a lawyer and civil rights activist.

An edited description from the ‘Ads of the World’ website, brilliantly elucidates the motivational rationale behind the social movement campaign.

“You can’t avoid it. Every news cycle confirms that the world is heading in a disturbing new direction; one where authoritarianism, xenophobia, bigotry, and corruption, threatens to be the ‘new normal’. While our leaders spew their hateful vitriol all over social media, we realise the importance of telling the story of different kind of leader.

One that was condemned to a prison cell for 27 years at the hands of a brutal Apartheid regime, and emerged only to choose love and forgiveness over hate. One that led his country to a peaceful democracy where every race, religion and creed would be free and equal.

4. Amnesty Portugal, Restart Your Speech

Advertising Agency: Havas, Lisbon, Portugal

Amnesty Portugal and Havas Lisboa, in a time of proliferating hate speech, fear, and division, have used Chaplin’s speech in the1940’s classic ‘The Great Dictator’ as an invitation to world leaders to ‘restart their speech’ to avoid repeating the dire mistakes of the past.

During Word War II, when Europe reeled under the destruction wrought by the fascist regimes of Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini, filmmaker and actor Charles Chaplin decided to address the world’s catastrophic socio-political environment in his satirical, monochromatic feature film, ‘The ‘Great Dictator’.

The clever, historical analogy, and skillful superimposition of Chaplin’s words to the lips of world leaders, is creatively insightful and makes for engaging viewing.

5. Coca-Cola Company’s Sprite, Facing A Hater

Advertising Agency: Santo/Digitas, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Produced by Argentina’s renowned local production company La dobleA S.A. and their film director Lemon, the brilliantly conceived social experiment is powerfully compelling.

The online commercial is part of a Sprite’s laudable campaign to neutralize hate with love. Extensive research revealed the most aggressive online troll that had viciously attacked 565 people in more than 1,000 tweets during the past year with hateful comments.

Sprite contacted him to be part of an “experiment,” but did not reveal what it entailed. He agreed to participate, not knowing what to expect, and what happened next is emotively insightful and highly watchable.

6. Behind The Scenes of Facing A Hater

Advertising Agency: Santo/Digitas, Buenos Aires, Argentina

AdAge advertising magazine, declared ‘Facing A Hater’ one the world’s best campaigns of 2019. The human-insights revealed in ‘Behind The Scenes’ more than adequately justifies’ their carefully considered pronouncement.

7. Headspace, Reword to End Cyber Bullying

Advertising Agency: Leo Burnett, Melbourne

Research conducted by the Australian government revealed that the country has one of the highest rates of cyber-bullying in the world.

Leo Burnett reacted by iniatiating a working partnership with an organisation called ‘Headspace’ to come up with a technological innovation in real time named ‘Reword’ to combat on-line abuse.

The brilliant ‘Reword’ initiative provides a whole new meaning to the term ‘user-firendly’.