Advertisers remove offensive labels and apologise


The advertising campaign “It’s better without drugs” has been suspended and its organizers have apologized to any who may have been offended by it (the advertising involved posters around Kyiv and some regions of Ukraine where in white letters on a black background, there were the questions “Mama, why am I deformed?[1]”  and  “Mama, why did I die?”, with the message written underneath: “Drug addicts don’t have healthy children”).

This was announced today (7 September) by the Head of the Coordination Council of the Ukrainian Association for External Advertising, Artem Bidenko, during a press conference in the UNIAN news agency.

“Within the following week the last posters will be taken down. These advertisements were aimed at those who might want to try drugs, and not at drug addicts. For us it was a shock that we had failed to take this vulnerable group into consideration. Our objective was positive – to make people think about the problem of drugs”, Artem Bidenko explained.

In his turn the Executive Director of the All-Ukrainian Association for Harm Reduction, Ihor Kaminnyk, reported that the early termination of the campaign had been the result of talks between them. “Social advertising is a process and campaign which cannot be restricted to a couple of billboards. It is a process which requires a careful approach to vulnerable groups. The campaign’s organizers had not considered the fact that the advertisements could affect specific individuals and families”, he commented.

“Shock techniques in advertising work, however they must be done intelligently, professionally and appropriately”, the Director of the Charitable Foundation “The Drop in Centre”, Pavlo Kutsev, explained.

The Ukrainian Association for External Advertising and the All-Ukrainian Association for Harm Reduction have agreed that from now on when organizing social advertising campaigns specialists and organizations which work with vulnerable groups of the population will be involved.

UNIAN adds:

The Ukrainian Association for External Advertising within the framework of the campaign “It’s better without drugs” in August 2006 placed advertising placards in Kyiv on 500 boards with questions in white against a black background reading:  “Mama, why am I deformed?”  and “Mama, why did I die?”, with the message written underneath: “Drug addicts don’t have healthy children”  Specialists in various fields judged the advertisements to be inhumane and harmful, both for society as a whole, and for those people who have experience of taking drugs or are addicted to drugs. As the specialists assert, such advertising can be psychologically traumatic, and as a result may have a depressive influence on a person regardless of whether they have experience of taking drugs or not.

[1]  The Ukrainian is in fact a bit worse than this, being the word for a “freak”  (translator’s note)

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