My wife hates prawns. She hates the look of them. Apparently this all started as the result of a cruel prank by her sisters. When she was a little girl her family apparently had prawns in all their glory for dinner. My wife made some sort of remark that they looked creepy. At this point one of her sisters picked up a prawn and waved it in her face. My wife let out a shriek and ran away. However, her sister was not done and began to chase her around the room with prawn in hand. To this day the sight of a prawn makes my wife squeamish. Her sister no longer teases her about it but our three lads do. Come Christmas and the inevitable prawns they will pick one up and say …“OOOH, Look mum!”
I was shocked yesterday to find my wife in fetal position cowering in the corner in our bedroom. Concerned I went over to her to comfort her. She was averting her eyes from the dresser. She pointed at the dresser and in a shaky voice asked me to take them away. I could see nothing that warranted this sort of reaction from her. “Take what away?” I asked. “THEM THEM THEM” she screamed.
I scanned the dresser and the only thing of note were her hearing aids. I picked them up and showed them to her. She let out a blood curdling scream. My god, what was this? And then I saw her phone beside her. I gently picked up her phone, she pushed me violently away and ran from the room. I looked at the phone, the penny dropped. The cause of her mania was this –
Of course I jest. This advertisement is being used by Victorian Hearing to promote hearing aids. What they are promoting is tiny hearing aids that no one can see. The premise is that hearing aids are ugly. Something to be hidden and ashamed of. Deafness is a bad thing isn’t it? We should never let anyone know we are deaf. Certainly not by wearing this revolting prawn like creature on our ears! It is another example of out society shaming and making people with a disability outcasts.
This particular advertisement ranks among the worst that I have ever seen. But sadly it is not the worst. Who can ever forget that bear. One day I logged into Facebook and I found myself staring at a bear. He was a kind of sorry looking bear. He had no eyes and no ears and he had stubby little legs. He looked almost like a double amputee. The bear was sitting sorrowfully on a wooden floor surrounded by wooden blocks and wooden toys. He is a bright yellow bear. He stands out from the toys that are reds, blues and greens. He looks so lonely and so sad. In the background on a blue wall were the words, “WE NEED YOUR HELP.”
This revolting and very, very creepy bear was part of an advertising campaign for a Sydney school that supports young people that might be deaf, blind or deafblind. The strategy of the campaign was clear. Give us money to assist us educate these poor deficit children. Can’t see, can’t hear – Oh how incredibly tragic. It reinforces the deficit mentality with a bang. I wrote a scathing article about this bear that elicited a response from the CEO. The CEO apologised profusely for offence caused and promised that removal of all advertising that had the bear would commence the next day. Click on the link to revisit this article – I SAW A BEAR
But by far the worst advertisement was the television advertisement made for the Cora Barclay Centre in South Australia. This was some years ago but this advertisement was incredibly offensive. In the advertisement there is an angelic boy. He has a mop of brown curly hair, he might have been about 12 years old. The boy looks sadly into the camera and in halting sign language explains that many years ago people who were deaf communicated in sign language JUST LIKE THIS – He stops momentarily – then in a sing song voice, with just a trace of a deaf accent he proclaims – “But NOW THERE IS A BETTER WAY.”
He then begins to exalt the virtues of the Cora Barclay Centre. Donate and more kids will speak just like him. None of this nasty sign language rubbish, thank you very much. I really do not need to repeat what the Deaf community thought of this one. Suffice to say several staff of the Cora Barclay Centre – past and present – contacted me at that time to express their sorrow and embarrassment in relation to this advertisement.
It never ceases to amaze me how marketing people consistently get the marketing of disability wrong. This is particularly so in the deafness sector. The image is always one of deficit. It is one of suffering. it is one of the victim. For whatever reason marketing people promote this idea of normalisation of disability as one where disability must never be acknowledged or seen … We have to be like them you see.
In the three examples above only the Sydney school apologised sincerely and removed the offending material. The Cora Barclay Centre did not even respond to criticism of the advertisement. As for Victorian Hearing who put out the prawn advertisement, well they apologised for any offence but refused to withdraw the advertisement. They said the campaign was completed on the weekend so the advertisement would not be seen any more anyway. They said it was part of a WAR to get people to acknowledge their hearing loss and get assessed for a hearing aid.
They are fooling no one. For them it was all about the money. It always is. Don’t worry about the consequences, if the profit margin goes upwards nothing else matters. All Victorian Hearing has done is to reinforce the stereotype that disability is a bad thing. It needs to be hidden and it is an embarrassment. But SHHHHHHHH, lets be sneaky, buy one of our tiny weeny hearing aids. No one needs to know you’re wearing them, snigger snigger.
Sorry, Victorian Hearing your campaign was offensive and insensitive. It was all about the profit and nothing you can say will convince me otherwise. For a business that is supposed to understand deafness you have been NOT VERY BRIGHT.
On a positive note if you want to promote hearing aids this is how it is done: