Racial Discrimination as a Subject of Social Advertising

It is widely accepted that advertising in any form influences a person’s choice. However, there are different types of advertisements. It is worth pointing out that social advertisements are very popular in the contemporary world due to the function they perform and the effects they exert on a person’s consciousness. “Your color skin shouldn’t dictate your future” is a social didactic advertisement directed at both the authorities and ordinary people, which appeals to the spectator’s emotions by means of addressing a cross-cultural and racial issue. Social advertising can be defined as a form of advertising communication, the purpose of which is to transfer socially significant information aimed at developing and changing public opinion, social norms and behaviors. The function of such communication manifests in the involvement of public members in solving social problems. Presumably, “Your color skin shouldn’t dictate your future” is a well-balanced social advertisement that preserves a didactic message and is organized according to the rhetorical norms of ethos, pathos and logos, which ensure the implementation of its main functions.

Before dwelling upon the particular advertisement, it is reasonable to mention some of the general information concerning social advertising. At present stage, advertising have become the general source of information about certain products and services. Most of the scholars consider it to be one of the most powerful means of influence on the public consciousness.

Social advertising seems to be an important factor in the formation of a personality’s behavior. The principal function of social advertising consists in addressing social problems crucial for the society and their indirect regulation. Most frequently, the major means of influence regarding social advertising include such components as text, slogan, image and representation. Modern advertising is generally focused on meeting cultural needs of the population. It implements certain values and standards, claiming the role of human behavior that must be followed. Each advertiser’s dream is to create a “viral” advertising product: the image or video shared on social networks, put on websites and blogs, or a slogan, poster, movie, which people would share with each other.

Shock Methods in Modern Advertising

Advertisers use the latest achievements of psychology and other sciences to gain the attention of the public. It has long been established that the strongest negative emotions, such as fear, disgust, anger and hatred matter in social advertising. Therefore, the most widely used technique to draw attention of the commercials is to use the so-called shock methods. Such advertisements often become “viral”. The most interesting achievements of social advertising can be attributed to the advertisers who deal with presenting the environmental problems and discrimination of women. The main objectives of such campaigns are to admit that the problem exists at a societal level and it should be immediately solved.

“Your color skin shouldn’t dictate your future” is one of the viral social advertisements due to the reason that it corresponds to the norms of successful social advertising. Firstly, it is necessary to point out that the chosen advertisement highly promotes positive racial behavior, which means that people should not have any prejudices towards other people’s skin color. Discrimination is one of the central issues raised in the image. However, the image also addresses the matter of poverty and its links to racial discrimination.

The shock method of such advertisement is actually the portrayal of children, who are differentiated by their race. There are three boxes with three children in them. However, one child seems to be Afro-American. While two others are more like ordinary babies in the diapers, the Afro-American baby is dressed like a cleaner. By taking the photos of babies, advertisers usually aim at showing to the public that the problem should be eradicated in childhood. Interestingly, by making such image, advertisers refer both to the Afro-American people, parents in particular, who should raise their babies eliminating racial discrimination and increasing the baby’s self-appraisal. Anyway, not only racial discrimination can be seen in the advertisement. “Your color skin shouldn’t dictate your future” indirectly refers to all kinds of discrimination. Nowadays, in the United States of America, Latinos are discriminated alongside with African-Americans. Nevertheless, the striking message of the advertisement is not to let the existing discrimination influence your future profession choices. Discrimination should not become the driving force that exerts an influence on one’s self-esteem.

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The advertisement directly addresses the problem of the consequences that discrimination puts forward. It is persuasive and possesses a special code. Ellis expressed positive thought saying that one of the hallmarks of a successful communication is connected to the notion of it being at the right time and in the right style in order to provide the right kind of communication and match the right kind of audience (Ellis, 2002, p. 27). Without doubts, the discrimination humiliates and demeans personalities that are exposed to it. Therefore, the advertisement’s objective is to diminish the underlying problem by means of changing the public opinion and stimulating proper behaviors. As such kind of advertisement presents a widely accepted societal problem, it becomes social. In addition, to understand the essence of the advertisement’s ideas and find out its contribution to the public consciousness, it is reasonable to process it rhetorically. The analysis of ethos, pathos and logos of the social advertisement can indicate how it is actually perceived by the public.

Regarding the previous points, one should take into account that the advertisement has a strong direct textual influence. However, it is not perceived so seriously without a picture and the slogan. That is why it seems that every component of the advertisement is fitted to the public expectations. Social advertising can appeal to a person’s reason, rational and logical thinking and cause some emotions that influence moral and social beliefs of the individual (appeal to the sense of justice and decency). Apparently, the most evident motives in social advertising are rational, emotional, moral and social. The analysis of the rhetorical appeals, such as ethos, pathos and logos regarding social advertisement may be helpful in determining its most powerful features.

Advertisers usually pay assiduous attention to the implementation of emotional appeal beforehand. It means that the application of pathos is most apparent in the social advertisement “Your color skin shouldn’t dictate your future.” Firstly, the appeal to the public emotions is achieved with the babies’ portrayal. Not surprisingly, recently babies have been used as the objects of advertising for different purposes. Among contemporary advertisements that take advantage of children, one may usually encounter the damaging effects of smoking, drug using and other harmful issues that adults resort to. The image of a child imitating adults’ actions is not a surprise for the social advertisers and spectators nowadays. One should admit that at present stage, such types of advertisements are the most popular ones, and the reason for it is their effectiveness in terms influence on the public perception, understanding and response. Therefore, pathos, as the emotional appeal, manifests itself using the babies. In addition, colors are also very important factors that address the problem of discrimination. Looking at the picture, the spectator can make immediate conclusion concerning the advertisement’s meaning.

Social advertising is an informational phenomenon and an important tool in the formation of a civilized society. Additionally, it seems to be a guide to help people determine the problems of society and identify their solutions. The peculiarity of the advertisement lies in the fact that it is a form of art, a component of social policy and a mechanism of influence on public opinion. Through the system of images linguistic resources cover advertising ideas. As a result, it excites social and active members of the society. Due to such reasons, social advertisements should be credible and trustworthy, thus possessing a high level of rationality. People who encounter the advertisement usually have personal reactions to it. The more consumers are aware of the advertising theme of social or political message, the more they responds to it and the more effective the campaign is. For example, citizens of the countries that do not experience racial discriminations usually think that too much attention is paid to current issue. In this particular case, the trustworthiness of the advertisement does not work for persuasiveness. However, the chosen advertisement is persuasive because it possesses a sense of logic. The rhetorical appeal of logos manifests in the advertiser’s intentions to represent logic and reasoning in the advertisement. The advertisement “Your color skin shouldn’t dictate your future” is marked with the fluent connection between the image representation and the textual evidence. Such components supplement each other, creating a considerable impression on the spectator who consumes the information.

Social advertising is an important element of the political, economic, moral and psychological stability of society. The chosen social advertisement performs several important functions: informative, educational, didactic and calling for action. Respectively, it announces the presence of a social problem that needs an immediate solution and explains the causes of social problems, suggesting ways to address them. In case with the chosen advertisement, one may see that the present social problem is racial discrimination, and an immediate solution the problem should be found as soon as possible. In addition, the advertisement a type of model that promotes conflict-free and comfortable people living together in society, meeting their physical, moral, aesthetic and cultural needs. By presenting the babies, the advertiser comments on their innocence. As the advertisement is aggressive, shocking and shows a social phenomenon from negative perspective, it encourages the consumer to respond quickly. Since social advertising has a societal value, it is designed for mass reproduction of rejecting discrimination. However, the chosen advertisement has a narrower nature, as it is directed specifically at the consciousness of Afro-American people who should not allow discrimination influence their future. The expected outcomes of such advertisement consist in changing both Afro-American attitudes to their race and the other people’s opinion about them. It actually inspires people not to lose hope when they are discriminated. According to the advertisement, people should believe in themselves and their future.

Thus, social advertising is a popularization, propaganda and moral encouragement of behaviors that may lead to the desired results. Its appearance is not a surprising phenomenon in the natural consequence of public relations evolution. Advertising took its place in the overall classification of the advertising genre, acquired peculiar features and became an integral part of public life. Social advertising is a different type of communication that is constantly evolving, performing its primary function – to make the world a better place for a living.


It is reasonable to conclude that social advertising is a type of advertising which aims at affecting public opinion. Interestingly, the chosen advertisement performs several functions and achieves a well-desired effect. The advertisement “Your color skin shouldn’t dictate your future” is result-oriented due to the reason that it operates as a shock method, including fear. The main idea implemented in the advertisement that exerts a tremendous effect on public consciousness is the use of babies as its models. In general, the advertisement encourages Afro-American people, or any other people with racial differences, not to be motivated by their skin color, but rather by their internal belief that discrimination does not usually lead to positive outcomes. The paper argues that the chosen advertisement sticks to the norms of rhetorical representation and is, thus, successful. It is marked with a certain point of emotional appeal, credibility and based on the principles of logic. Such argument is also proved by means of applying functional analysis of the advertisement. Therefore, being didactic in nature “Your color skin shouldn’t dictate your future” is a noticeable advertisement that reflects imagination, trustworthiness and logic.

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