Shame Sparks Change in “Virtual Racism, Real Consequences” Campaign

"Virtual Racism, Real Consequences"

"Virtual Racism, Real Consequences"

Internet trolls often ignore the consequences of their hateful actions. They hide behind their anonymous online personas and often spread racism and hate with unnecessary comments to other undeserving Internet users.

Criola, a Brazilian organization defending black women’s rights, is fighting back with some humiliating designs in their “Virtual Racism, Real Consequences” Campaign. Through geotagging tools, the authors of racist comments were found, and their comments blown up in size were plastered on billboards in their neighborhoods. Criola’s message was not to expose the vicious writers, but to raise awareness to racism within the community.

Disgust and sadness were among the comments from viewers. A man spoke about one of the billboards, “This calls attention to the racist subject we don’t even remember exists.” Reactions like this explain exactly why ads for social change can create such a difference. They open people’s eyes to issues that, in this case, have been there all along, and were just ignored.

"Virtual Racism, Real Consequences"

Research from the Institution for Social and Policy Studies at Yale University shows that shame is a more effective deterrent, and better way to change ones bad behavior. Provocative campaign ads for social change are something designers use to create social change in a much more dramatic, but effective way.

Advertisements are strong when used for commercial purposes, but are powerful when used in the public interest. They confront people with issues that can otherwise be easily ignored, such as Cordaid’s campaign called “Small Change, Big Difference”. Photos of people from a nomadic tribe in Kenya do fashion model poses with luxury items such as expensive handbags and sunglasses.

Confronting people about their consumer behavior, this ad design made people uncomfortable. Posted around bars, restaurants, malls, and other public spaces, the ad was created to remind people that their frivolous spending could be helping someone who is I need.

The mixed reactions, that were a direct result of this advertisement, are a powerful message. Although the design was a simple, it ruffled some feathers and upset many people. However, many people appreciated it and still share it today. The reactions to the design were contradictory, but the advertisement still brought the social issue to light and gave something to people to talk about.

Campaigns that attempt to target the unconscious bias of their audience are the most memorable Although these types of designs pull at the heartstrings, and can sometimes fill viewers with disgust and sadness, they spark thoughts that most viewers are unknowingly blind to. The goal is to make people want to help, learn more, and be conscious of the social issues going on around them.

Maybe disgrace needs to be used more often in design? Problems within our society are so easily swept under the rug. When designs such as Criola’s and Coridad’s can throw these hidden issues right back into the face of society, they become harder to ignore. People start talking, and that is when change can begin.

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