The DA’s Student Organisation (DASO) turned, as culture demands, to sexual imagery in their latest ad campaign to reach their target market – which I guess are late teens and 20-something ‘forward thinking’ South Africans. The ads appear mainly on university campuses across the country.
The Democratic Alliance, or DA as they’re commonly known, is arguably the best administrative political party in South Africa, one of the great anti-corruption voices in the country, and of course the official opposition to the governing ANC. ‘Opposition’ is probably a relative term but they are the main contender among all others challenging the ANC’s, now declining, stronghold of around 60% of all votes in South Africa.
DASO launched this image as part of what seems their latest campaign to gather in any politically unsatisfied young ones hanging around. It is the image of a white man and black woman engaging in what couldn’t be much else than sexual activity (although opinion writer David Moseley mockingly suggested that there are some other very good reasons they could be hugging each other’s naked bodies) with the caption reading ‘In OUR future, you wouldn’t look twice’. To put this into perspective, South Africa is notoriously known for their pre-1994 Apartheid policy during which time it was illegal for people from different racial classifications to marry one another or have kids together – as part of many other restrictions minimising interactions between the different people groups. Further, many political parties are also still defined along cultural lines by many of South Africa’s citizens – be it that of language, skin colour, or traditions. The DA (the remains of the former governing white party) is one party however beginning to successfully shed those labels as their voters consist of various cultural groups and it is becoming more and more representative of the South African society as a whole.
This ad communicates this message well as it invites all members of society to become part of and be co-labourers in the South Africa of the furture.
It was received with mixed feelings though. The big positive I took from the public’s reception of the poster is that no one (well, almost no one) complained or made distasteful remarks about the fact that it portrays a ‘mixed race’ couple. The complaints were rather about the fact that a sexual image was used.
Off the top of my head I paraphrase some quotes that stood out for me from the comment sections in some of our newspapers:
“This looks more like a condom ad than that of a political party.”
“Why didn’t they just show a couple holding hands (with their clothes on)?”
“How wise is it to portray a couple (in an ad aimed at our youth) engaging in sex in a country plagued by AIDS, sexual abuse and rape, as part of a political campaign?”
“People are hiding their racism behind the guise of being opposed to the sexual message.”
“It looks like an ad for Teazers (local strip club).”
“It promotes sexual promiscuity among students.”
What I wonder is whether adding a sexy edge to political communication is DASO’s way of not only saying ‘seperation of the races are a thing of the past with us’ but also, more subtly, ‘the moral code our parents lived by is a thing of the past with us’? Why naked people instead of just clothed people? Or is this what it took to really stand out from the other parties – which I’d say it successsfully did, especially with this current publicity going around?
Living in the student town of Stellenbosch myself I wonder, is there not another way to communicate effectively to the ‘next generation’ without the use of sexual imagery, or otherwise the ‘party lifestyle’, any more?
Here is the DA Youth’s response and that of some others to the controversial ad.