Ad Agency Defends UN “Juanito the Illegal Immigrant” Campaign

After asking award-winning ad agency 72 and Sunny for comment about its latest UNHATE “Juanito the Illegal Immigrant” awareness campaign produced in association with the United Nations’ Department of Public Information and Benetton, Latino Rebels received an email response from an agency spokesperson defending the creative and editorial choices made for Juanito 2014:

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Thanks for your feedback regarding the Juanito 2014 campaign.

We deliberately chose “illegal” as a more contentious word than “undocumented”. In each of the UNHATE News stories, we are trying to raise awareness for an important cause by using provocative language. We want to generate debate about immigrant rights — on a global scale. We have chosen to use a word easily understood by people who may not previously have engaged with the issue.

On Juanito2014.com, we are explicit that a vote for Juanito is “a vote saying that no human should ever be considered ‘illegal’”. We are passionate about supporting the cause of undocumented immigrants.

The purpose of the UNHATE News campaign is to highlight and amplify the conversation around key social issues. On the website we provide information about the serious problems faced by immigrants all around the world. We wholeheartedly support the stated mission of Latino Rebels, and welcome this dialogue if it helps stoke the debate and elevate the issue.

We did check out the website the spokesperson referred to and this is what it says:

The reason people immigrate usually comes from a simple desire for a better life.

People who leave their home countries risk a lot, at times even their lives, for this simple human right. And although they work immensely hard for it, they are often discriminated against and end up having to work on the black market in dangerous conditions.

While this is a well-documented issue in the United States, and Arizona specifically, immigration is an issue close to each country. In the European Union there were 1.7 million new immigrants in 2011 alone, and around 250,000 specifically in the United Kingdom. Reports from Germany show that their immigrants don’t receive the same welfare benefits as ‘natural born’ citizens.

Join the Juanito campaign at www.juanito2014.com

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So let’s get this one straight: an award-winning ad agency based in LA and Amsterdam is using stereotypical images of an “illegal immigrant” in Arizona hiding behind his hand to raise awareness about immigration in Europe? If that is the case, why didn’t 72 and Sunny do an UNHATE campaign about (wait for it) immigration in Europe? It really had to present bizarrely offensive stereotypes about Mexicans (under the guise of “satire”) to explain its point? By the way, you can read all our reasons why this campaign fails here.

And what about the other questions we have about the campaign: How did Juanito’s Twitter profile get close to 11,000 Twitter followers with just four tweets? Did the United Nations sign off on this campaign? Did Benetton? Does the agency not realize that the images and copy it chose actually do very little to advance the “global” conversation about migrant rights? So using a fake news story about an “illegal” running for Arizona governor is the best choice?

This latest campaign just reflects how lazy 72 and Sunny became with this one topic. Yes, immigration is an important global topic. No, mocking it with dehumanizing stereotypes is not. With all the money this agency has, a poor creative choice was made. Now the agency is defending it in the name of global debate. That’s your answer?

We guess so.

If 72 and Sunny truly believed in the “stated mission of Latino Rebels,” it would do the right thing and start over with this campaign. Can it now. Actually talk with immigrant rights activists who use humor and satire to get to the real issues here and learn from what is a massive and colossal (and costly) mistake. This is not the time to dig your heels, 72 and Sunny. This is the time to do the right thing.

Hey, 72 and Sunny started this conversation by specifically asking us to partner with them on this campaign. We gave them our reasons as to why they failed. How 72 and Sunny finally responds to some serious concerns will reflect their true intentions here.

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