Sydney copywriter asks: What's the limit on standing by your morals in advertising?

Fat-Chance-article.jpgBy Jordan Alexander Davies

I'm not super prone to taking a stance, and my intention is not to push an opinion. I'm simply looking to guage the temperature on a hypothetical situation I've been mulling over the last couple days.

There was an article in Australian newspaper The Daily Telegraph on Wednesday. The headline read: Fat Chance of Being Healthy: Young Aussies only have themselves to blame. It was followed by an infographic featuring a bunch of statistics, which presumedly were intended to reinforce the headline. Here's a sample:
37% of 16- to 24-year olds consume alcohol at levels posing a lifetime risk to health.
11% of 12- to 17-year-olds used illict drugs in the past 12 months.
37% of males and 21% of females aged 16 to 24 are overweight or obese.
16.8% of secondary school students in Australia are attracted to people of the same sex as them or both sexes.
    
So here, in 2017, we have a publication that - for all intents and purposes - is suggesting same sex attraction and bisexuality is an unhealthy lifestyle choice that negatively affects the health of our youth. A suggestion that I'm really not stoked about because I personally do not believe that a boy liking another boy (or any of the other non-heterosexual combinations) is A) a choice, and B) going to give him a "fat chance of being healthy".
Pretty irritated about the article and the publication in general, I began to wonder what I would do if I rolled into the office and my ECD said, "mate, we've got a new client - you're going to be working on The Daily Telegraph"?

Which brings me to my hypothetical situation, and a question for the greater advertising community: could I refuse to work on a client for moral reasons?
   
Let me establish the parametres of this question: I believe everyone's entitled to their opinion. This isn't about refusing to work with/for someone just because their opinion is different to mine. This is about working for a company that is actively and publicly pushing an agenda which I have a massive moral objection to. Not totally dissimilar to Don's contention with Lucky Strike.

With that in mind, I ask again: is it a reasonable request for a creative to ask that they not work on a client they have such a strong objection to?
Ignore the other obvious question of, "should I refuse to work on this client?" That lends itself to a whole spectrum of variables, which doesn't quite benefit this discussion.

What if I put it to you this way: would it be okay for a homophobic art director to refuse to work on a newspaper which actively and publicly celebrated same-sex relationships?
Note, I said homophobic and not Christian because there's a difference between a moral opposition, and a religious one.
                                   
Like I mentioned earlier, I'm not hugely prone to taking a stance. I've worked on heaps of clients that have challenged my morality. I guess the reason I feel differently about this is because it feels like there's a difference between selling a product like a car or credit card, and growing the circulation of a newspaper which spreads an opinion to which I am vehemently opposed.

Or, does that distinction actually destroy the foundation of this argument?
Perhaps the bigger question is, "where would you draw the line at working for a client in terms of challenging your morality?" And a step further, "where do we end personally, and begin professionally?"

A final caveat in case it wasn't clear: I'm writing this from the understanding that homosexuality is something way deeper than a "lifestyle choice", as much as there are probably a bunch of confused teens out there who, perhaps looking to improve their health, wish it were.

1 Comments

Irene Kadenbach said:

I am disgusted in this day and age and gobsmacked that they managed to tie same sex in the same page as obesity and drug use.

This is not the dark ages .There is no health issue with same sex. It is not a lifestyle choice . Who would choose to be marginalised by the narrow minded ,homophobic people among us.
Maybe proof read what is going into the papers instead of setting us back 100 years. I for one would not buy the Daily Telegraph if it was the last paper on earth.
you should be ashamed to print that rubbish .
I think there is enough youth targeted and we have seen enough suicides caused by people being ill informed .
A sad reflection on the quality of journalism .

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