A new campaign by Saatchi & Saatchi London for Operation Black Vote, an organisation that aims to encourage the BAME community to vote in the forthcoming UK elections, is getting a lot of attention on Twitter, though is its message getting through?
The campaign features a number of black celebrities, including Sol Campbell, Tinie Tempah, David Harewood and Ade Adepitan, in photographs in which their skin has been turned white. The images accompanied by quotes which say “if you don’t register to vote, you’re taking the colour out of Britain”.
The posters are clearly deliberately designed to provoke, inevitably bringing to mind blackface, and its accompanying racist associations. The problem is whether this provocation then overshadows the message: as Twitter users get bogged down in discussing whether Sol Campbell is being racist or not, will this actually encourage more voters?
This is far from the first time that we’ve seen experimentation with skin colour to provoke conversation – back in 1993, Colors magazine turned both Queen Elizabeth and Arnold Schwarzenegger black and Spike Lee white in an issue about race under Tibor Kalman’s typically provocative art direction. Such a move will always cause discussion and debate, and it could be argued that this is the best way for an ad like this to get attention now. But there is also a risk that Operation Black Vote’s positive message of action will get lost along the way.
Agency: Saatchi & Saatchi London
ECDs: Andy Jex, Rob Potts