Faaez Samadi
Aug 29, 2017

Industry unites against 'hateful' ads ahead of Australia gay-marriage vote

‘Say No to No’, launched by Nick Cummins at The Royals, has seen more than 1,600 signatories from agencies across the industry.

Nick Cummins
Nick Cummins

Close to 1,700 people working in Australia’s advertising, marketing and communications industry have signed an online petition committing not to make harmful advertising ahead of the country’s historic postal vote on the right to same-sex marriage.

The ‘Say No to No’ campaign calls on people in the industry to come together in opposition to the “hateful and harmful” anti-LGBTIQ advertising being disseminated ahead of a postal vote in September on an increasingly fractious issue, said campaign founder Nick Cummins, creative partner at independent agency The Royals.

“It’s one of those great opportunities where as a communications industry, we can make positive change and come together,” he told Campaign Asia-Pacific. “Sometimes we’re very competitive, we can each other’s work on blogs, but this is an industry group hug. We’re all making a stand together because we can make a difference.”

Ballot papers will be sent out on 12 September, with voting closing in early November.

Cummins said as well as individuals, more than 30 agencies have committed to Say No to No, including global players such as DDB, Isobar, Clemenger BBDO and AKQA.

“It’s really exciting and very brave for these big organisations,” he said. “It’s also gained traction with some of their clients, as I understand.”

Cummins accepted that it was extremely rare for industry people to make harmful adverts attacking people in their day jobs, but that political advertising “can get nasty”. Examples of the ads Cummins is advocating against—some containing blatantly false information in service of their discriminatory message—have appeared on social media in recent weeks. Cummins said he did not know who had made them.

“We don’t want Say No to No to become a witch-hunt, and we’re not telling people how to vote, we’re very clear on that,” Cummins emphasised. “But we are sending a message to those who will be making those ads that we don’t want to spread or make harmful messages.”

Cummins said he came up with the idea while judging the Spikes Asia awards last year, when the idea of a plebiscite on same-sex marriage in Australia was first seriously considered, but then withdrawn.

“Lots of people in the communications and creative industry have great friends in the LGBTIQ community, and we’re supportive of equality,” he said.

A new website for Say No to No is being built, with greater functionality and the ability for people to explain why they are choosing to support the campaign. Cummins said he hopes the new site will “re-energise the conversation” ahead of the vote. 

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