January 27th, 2012 by Catherine Herbst
Do you think the DA lost more support than they gained with their recent controversial poster?
I believe they may have. The biggest failing is that their campaign incited the wrong debate. Our country is facing so many social, economic and political challenges that they would have been better served to have focused on presenting a solution or approach to these.
Although I believe it was conceptualised and designed with honourable intentions, it has shown that the DA is out of touch with what South Africans want to hear from their politicians. It seems that the strategic and creative brief was more focused on creating controversy to turn heads and stimulate PR than it was on demonstrating a political stand point or strategy that South Africans can relate to and hold on to.
The reality is that thousands of young men and women have little hope of finding employment and gaining financial security and this poster’s message (besides being a call back to the United Colours of Benetton campaign of the 80s) is missing the mark completely.
A young female friend of mine told me of the talk in her taxi to work. Many felt that the poster was too sexually risqué and distracted from the message they were trying to convey. The poster’s implied sexuality is irresponsible in a time when our country is faced with a continuing HIV/Aids epidemic and so many children are having children, babies are being abandoned etc. The DA’s argument to this is that the poster was meant for university students. This is naive considering that it was overtly designed to incite debate that they no doubt expected to filter into the media, the taxis and homes throughout South Africa.
And if it was designed for the tertiary student, then the insult is doubled because these are our future leaders, the intellectual incubator of our future, surely the DA’s message could have challenged these young minds more with a message that would get them talking about solutions rather than controversy over nudity and race.
It is ironic how the same DA supporters who fervently scoff at the ANC Youth League’s perceived preoccupation on race and who continually comment that ‘it has been 17 years, move on already, we have more important issues to be focusing on’, are now defending this concept and its timing.
There is no doubt that race is still a very real issue in our country, but I believe this is being exasperated by the government’s failure to address the hangover of apartheid. Our education system is in a dire state, unemployment is a constant depressant to the positivity and energy of our people and the resultant impact on our social and moral fabric is immense.
A friend of mine reminded me that ‘there is no such thing as bad PR and at least this poster has got people talking’. Perhaps this is true or I would not have written this article and for that the DA deserves credit, however I am disappointed in the wasted opportunity to talk about something that could take our country out of the doldrums of frustration, anger and at best apathy. Let’s hear more about tactics and less ideology.
I am tired of futile political grandstanding and poorly conceptualised, gratuitous PR strategies, I long for political prowess such of Mandela, where acting for change was seeded by the desperation of reality, a sense of fairness and a selfless quest to right wrongs and never at the cost of dignity.
I long for political leadership with balls.
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Tags: ANC Youth League, bad PR, DA supporters, Dasco poster