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Senior adland execs explain why they’re refusing to work on the ‘No’ campaign in the same-sex marriage debate

As more senior creatives and CEOs 'Say No to No' in support of marriage equality in Australia, Mumbrella's Abigail Dawson asks industry leaders if they would create or contribute to the 'no' campaign.

Following the Australian government’s decision to commit to a postal plebiscite on the issue of same-sex marriage last Monday afternoon, creative agency The Royals created a ‘Say No to No’ pledge.

The initiative asks agencies and industry professionals to agree not to work on the ‘No’ campaign if the proposed plebiscite goes ahead, with members of the advertising industry being urged to “help stop the harmful message and ‘Say no to No'”.

Thinkerbell is one the Australian agencies showing its support for the cause. Co-founder Adam Ferrier tells Mumbrella: “The assumption is that people should be allowed to have equal rights – independent of sexual orientation – so of course, under that assumption I’d say ‘no’ to No. I love Nic and what The Royals have done to stir our industry into thinking about this issue.”

Ferrier says “no to No”

Kimberlee Wells, TBWA Melbourne’s CEO, would have “no interest” in working on a No campaign because to do so “only serves to take society backwards”.

“TBWA will not take work from No campaigners for two reasons: Firstly, TBWA’s purpose is to move the world forward through creativity,” she says. “We have no interest in being a catalyst to the emotional trauma a campaign of this nature will bring.

“Sadly, the hardest hit are the most-vulnerable members of society – young people. With suicide and self-harm rates already high amongst this demographic there is absolutely no way we could or would willingly put communications to market that had the potential to perpetuate such devastating results.

“Then there are the impacts closer to home. In a recent staff culture pulse survey the overwhelming result was our people feel safe to be themselves. We have worked very hard to ensure we have diversity in all its forms: gender, religion, sexual orientation, CALD, disability. This is essential to our creativity, the lifeblood of our industry. It’s a credit to our culture that our people feel free and open to express themselves.

“Taking on a No campaign would send a very clear message we as an agency care more about the profits than our people. And that simply isn’t true.”

Wells says “we have no interest in being a catalyst to the emotional trauma a campaign this nature will bring”

Jules Hall, CEO of The Hallway, says taking part in a No campaign would “jar my individual values”.

“Personally, I wouldn’t take work from no campaigners – it would jar with my individual values. I find it ludicrous that we don’t have marriage equality in Australia. For such an innovative, pioneering nation we do have the ability to drop the ball on some very important matters!

“Of course there will be some (unfortunate) agencies that might need to chase this work to meet onerous revenue targets. Being one of the few independents in this industry we have the luxury of being able to make decisions on who we work with without fear of recriminations from network bosses. So no, The Hallway will not be accepting work from No campaigners.”

Hall says “I find it ludicrous that we haven’t already legalised same sex marriage”

Nick Garrett, CEO at Clemenger BBDO Melbourne, says the agency believes in marriage equality and will partner with companies who share the same beliefs: “Whilst we appreciate the democratic values of ensuring everyone is able to have their voice heard, we won’t be supporting the No campaign at Clemenger BBDO Melbourne.

“We believe in marriage equality and will continue to partner with and support organisations who share that belief, as evidenced by our recent work with Airbnb. We hope that this process is carried out in a manner that leads towards unity rather than division.”

Garrett says “we believe in marriage equality”

Lorraine Jokovic, CEO at Loud Communications, says despite it being a tough call, Loud has a long history of saying no to No.

“Saying no to working on campaigns that are high profile can be a tough call. That said, we have a long history of saying no to any campaign work that’s going to have a negative impact on culture. In fact, that kind of no is part of our culture.

“We’ve said no to gambling brands and yes to anti-gambling campaigning. We said no to the second instalment of “Don’t call Australia home”‘ and yes to initiatives aimed to close detention centres. Rest assured LOUD pledges that we won’t work on the No campaign. We’re proud to be part of an industry group that’s taking a stand on this issue and commend Nick and his team for kickstarting this initiative.”

Jokovic says “that kind of no is part of our culture”

Anthony Gregorio, group CEO at Havas Worldwide Australia, says asking anyone at Havas to work on a campaign they don’t support wouldn’t be fair:

“I unequivocally wouldn’t take work from No campaigners. I think for any agency to perform effectively for a cause related campaign, it’s important to support/believe in the cause. Apart from my own support of marriage equality, I’m pretty sure that there is 100% support for marriage equality at the agency.

“So asking anyone to work on a campaign they don’t support would not be fair and hardly deliver the best result for the client. More importantly, I’ve always believed in the saying ‘a principle isn’t a principle until it costs you money’.”

Gregorio says “a principle isn’t a principle until it costs you money”

Warren Brown, partner at Gutthink & Partners, says Gutthink would have to decline if asked to take on a No campaign:

“Taking on any advertising challenge two things are important, it’s important to believe that what you’re promoting will help improve our lives and the message you send out will be effective.

“If Gutthink was asked to take on the No campaign we’d have to decline, as what right does anyone have to deny others some happiness and a better quality of life?  Also, as this issue has been dragging on for so long, and we’ve heard the arguments ad nauseam, I’d say everyone has decided where they stood on it ages ago.

“As a result any communication would have Buckley’s chance of having any effect and be a complete waste of money. So on both counts, doing a campaign to vote No to same sex marriage is a no go for Gutthink.”

Brown: “What right does anyone have to deny others some happiness and a better quality of life”

Sian Binder, creative partner at DDB Sydney, says she believes it is up to the industry to help regulate what will be a hateful campaign and she “wholeheartedly disagrees” with No campaigns:

“I fully support marriage equality and would never agree to work with the No campaigners. Not just because I wholeheartedly disagree with them, but also because I believe it’s up to us as an industry to help self-regulate what is no doubt going to be a hateful campaign.

“Advertising and media aren’t always moral exemplars, but we are expert communicators. By rejecting any involvement, the No campaign loses communications firepower. It also sends a message to Australians that our industry has a greater purpose than just selling products, that we can also help shape a better future.”

Binder: “By rejecting any involvement, the No campaign loses communications firepower”

David Fox, CEO of Ogilvy Australia, says Australia hasn’t learnt anything from its history and in 55 years we should look back with embarrassment because “we just didn’t get on with it and allow everyone to live their lives how they see fit”.

“It was only 55 years ago that Australia changed the electoral act to allow all indigenous Australians to vote in federal elections. Before 1902 Australia did not allow woman the right to vote in federal elections or even enter politics. We look back at those moments in our history and think how wrong we were to hold back someone’s basic human rights based on skin colour and gender,” he adds.

“So here we are again. We haven’t learned anything from history. Marriage equality is about the basic human right for one person who loves another to recognise this officially no matter their gender mix.

“I hope in 55 years we look back at 2017 with embarrassment and shame around the fact we just didn’t get on with it and allow everyone to live their lives how they see fit. After all it is their lives and in a free democratic nation no one has any right to enforce laws which take away others rights as human beings.

“Ogilvy Australia would say no to the No campaigners.”

Fox says “Ogilvy Australia would say no to the No campaigners”

Matt Robinson, founder and managing director at AnalogFolk Australia, says AnalogFolk Australia supports the LGBTI community and would not participate in a No campaign:

“If you stepped inside the walls of any AnalogFolk office around the world, you’d find a group of people who value inclusiveness, diversity, and equality. What this most likely means, is that we have folks within our offices sitting in both the Yes and the No camps – and we fully respect each individuals rights to those views. Ultimately though, our decision for the Australian business is to fully support the LGBTI community in achieving marriage equality – and as a result, saying no to No.”

Robinson is saying no, to No

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