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A disruptive Danish advertisement fights discrimination

‘Alt det vi deler’ (‘All That We Share’, in English) is a commercial created by TV2Danmark to cope the increasing racial attitudes of these days in Denmark and all over the world. Its English version was uploaded on YouTube January 27th 2017, that is the International Holocaust Remembrance Day and the same day in which an executive order against Muslim-majority countries entering the United States was released by President Donald Trump. TV2, created by the Danish Parliament in 1988 to end Danmarks Radio’s monopole on radio and TV programs, presented on the social media the new artifact’s version as a way to celebrate the tolerance and the sense of community that characterize Denmark.



At the beginning of the video, 80 Danes were divided in boxes according to the answers they had given in a previous survey. Those boxes represent the most common groups in which people are put by our mind basing on stereotypes, religion, gender and ethnic appearance. This divisions create the idea that there are some people whom we don’t share anything with. But then, those Danes are continuously mixed in various ways; ‘Quickly, the "Us versus Them" narrative falls apart. People begin to step out of their so-called defining boxes’(The Huffington Post Canada, 2017), using uncommon classifications such as ‘stepparents’, ‘bully’ and ‘dance lovers’, to show that differences don’t necessarily imply that we don’t have a common ground with others (news.com.au, 2017). In fact, the description below the video (TV2Danmark, 2017) states ‘We live in a time where we quickly put people in boxes. Maybe we have more in common than what we think?’


This advertisement was thought to be a disruptive way to draw the attention on the growing social problem of discrimination, that appears to be increasingly relevant in nowadays societies: it has a sttrong impact because it presents this issue with a ‘mix of humour and gravitas’ (news.com.au, 2017). Disruptive as long as media generally present ethnic diversities as a problem and a risk for the dominant culture of a certain society, while this video argues that are the differences between Danes that make Denmark great.



The ethic problems connected to this artifact are the risk of losing the sense of support from a community, as well as the representation and the vulnerability of certain minorities. TV2 worked hard in order to celebrate the richness of new, unexpected connections between people: a solidarity established between individuals, that maintaining their singular characteristics build at the same time a collective consciousness, becoming ‘capable of collective movement’ (Durkheim 1985, p.48) and of a sense of what the sociologist calls as ‘organic solidarity’ (despite Durkheim defines it as something based mainly on labour division, more than on the collective sense).

Moreover, minority groups such as Muslims, bisexuals, women and immigrants can be recognized from some characteristics, but they aren’t treated in a different way from the other Danes: their vulnerability is protected precisely because they’re included in that society and respected like everyone else despite the differences.


The International Chamber of Commerce, a world business organisation that operates also in Denmark to help every kind of business operating responsibly, published, in 2011, the Code of Advertising and marketing communication practice. This Code guides media in the process of auto-regulation, and applies also in Denmark.

The article number 12, which concerns denigration, states: ‘Marketing communications should not denigrate any person or group of persons, firm, organisation, industrial or commercial activity, profession or product, or seek to bring it or them into public contempt or ridicule’(Code of Advertising and Marketing Communications Practice 2011, p. 8). From this perspective, the piece analyzed can be considered fair as it doesn’t denigrate anyone: nevertheless, more specific laws concerning the coverage of gender diversity can be found into the Guidelines on Gender-Related Advertising, written in 2012 by the Danish Consumer Ombudsman, an independent public authority that supervises the conformity with Danish marketing laws.


More specifically, article 3.2 (Guidelines on Gender-Related Advertising 2012, pp. 8-9 ) articulates all the cases in which an advertisement may contain or promote sex discrimination, underlining that any advertisement mustn’t offends genders and biological differences. For this reason, All that we share is professional, respects the Danish laws and gives a honest representation of genders, defining all human kinds not from their sexual differences and choices, but from their personal attributes. It also has to be considered that it seems there’s a lack of media rights and protocols that regulate the representation in advertising of cultural and religious minorities and of vulnerable groups; however, there are many laws in Denmark that protect multiculturalism and integration.



In a landscape of a country that’s still dealing with marginalization and social division issues, this artifact works positively to present all the vulnerable groups as an important part of the Danish population. Moreover, the commercial complies with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted also by Denmark. In fact, the article n. 30 (Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948) calls for a respect of all the rights previously set in the Declaration, among which there are the freedom of thought, conscience and religion (art.18) and the freedom of opinion and expression (art.19), and the artefact gives voice to everyone, because it’s constructed precisely on the deliberate declaration of what the 80 Danes think about themselves.


As a result of this reflection, it can be affirmed that the ethics connected to the professions of the media are respected. Concerning this aspect of the case studied, it can be said that there are many different theories of ethical thinking that might be used to analyze this artifact from a perspective that is not simply professional or legal, but regards the moral implications as well.

Although, the utilitarian approach is the more useful to do a critical study of the case. Utilitarianism, which is a version of the consequentialist theories, would argue that the spot is ethically correct, as it provides to the public the image of a multicultural society in which Denmark has to recognize herself.

In fact, consequentialism argues that ‘an action that makes things better is good’ (Baggini & Fosl 2007, p.56): it is clear that the artifact works precisely with this purpose, as its construction depends from the work of many different people that have cooperated to create something enriched by diversity and by the personal characteristics of everyone.

More specifically, among the consequentialist theories, the one that interests this commercial the most is the preference utilitarianism, because it presents right actions as those actions that ‘allow the greatest number to live according to their own preferences’ (Baggini & Fools 2007, p. 57).


Of course this advertisement is not morally good just because of its intentions: that eventual point of view would be sustained by the Virtue Ethics; as previously said, utilitarianist affirm the necessity to study the real effects of this piece. First of all, just the English version on YouTube has received 5.004.821 views.

The overall rate of sharing goes beyond ‘6 million shares and 250 millions organic views’, according the D&AD Foundation. Secondly, the greatest part of the comments below the video are positive, and expresses different points of view on the positivity of the advertisement.

Particularly interesting are the comments from those people that are grateful to the Danish medium for giving them new hopes for a more peaceful future.


Finally, the commercial has had a positive impact all over the world; many newspapers from different countries have praised TV2 for the positive message: the aforementioned article from new.com.au, for instance, that was entitled ‘Awesome ad we wish they’d make in Australia’. It can be therefore stated that as long as All that we share was published in order to develop intercultural communication and to realize in practice a society which is still partly utopian and idealized, its contents are ethical because they are already producing a positive impact on nowadays societies.


References:

TV2Danmark, 2017, TV2|All That We Share, video, YouTube, 27 January, viewed 10 January 2018, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jD8tjhVO1Tc

news.com.au, 2017, ‘Out of the box: Awesome ad we wish they’d make in Australia’, news.com.au, 10 February, viewed 5 September 2018,

https://www.news.com.au/world/out-of-the-box-awesome-ad-we-wish-theyd-make-in-australia/news-story/aeba2e2d42043728d6c7712ed63bf727

Butterfield, M 2017, ‘This Danish TV Ad Is What The World Needs To Remember Now More Than Ever’, The Huffington Post Canada, 30 January, viewed 5 September 2018, https://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2017/01/30/danish-tv-ad-all-that-we-share_n_14504328.html

Durkheim, É 1985, ‘Part Two: Division of Labour, Crime and Punishment. Reading 3: THE DIVISION OF LABOUR IN SOCIETY’, The division of labour in society, Tavistock Publications, New York, UniSa eReadings collection, PDF, pp. 33-57, https://search.library.unisa.edu.au/record/UNISA_ALMA11161142920001831

International Chamber of Commerce, 2011, Code of advertising and marketing communication practice, viewed 8 September 2018,

http://www.codescentre.com/media/2083/660%20consolidated%20icc%20code_2011_final%20with%20covers.pdf

Danish Consumer Ombudsman, 2012, Guidelines on Gender-Related Advertising, viewed 8 September 2018,

https://www.consumerombudsman.dk/media/46536/2016-guidelines-on-genderrelated-advertising.pdf

United Nations, 1948, Universal declaration of human rights, viewed 8 September 2018, http://www.un.org/en/universal-declaration-human-rights/index.html

Baggini, J & Fosl, P 2007, ‘Part II: Frameworks for Ethics’, The Ethics Toolkit: A compendium of ethical concepts and methods, Malden, MA : Blackwell Pub., pp-56-97.

D&AD Foundation, 2017, All that we share, D&AD Foundation, viewed 10 September 2018,

https://www.dandad.org/awards/professional/2017/branded-content-entertainment/25997/all-that-we-share/

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