Soft sell enters battle against racism

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The Independent Online
The Campaign for Racial Equality has toned down its traditionally hard-hitting anti-racism message for a new advertising campaign that will form a key part of the European Union's 1997 Year Against Racism.

The campaign, which is part funded by the Home Office, is being launched in London today by the sprinter and Olympic gold medalist Linford Christie.

The new advert, created by Saatchi & Saatchi with the help of 14 directors of commercials who donated their services, is titled Equal and presents an artistically shot "feel-good" message that we are all the same under the skin.

It follows the lives of people, belonging to a variety of races, from birth to death, to show that we all go through the same things - from worrying about homework to crying after an international football defeat.

Children change from black to white as they worry about their homework, bishops and bushmen are seen at worship, and inter-racial couples blend into new combinations of colours and gender.

Kes Gray, the copywriter who created the advert for Saatchi & Saatchi, said it was a departure for the CRE: "A lot of past work for the CRE has tended to point the finger over racism. It has been really hard-hitting and aggressive, and this time we wanted the tone to be more heartfelt.

"We had a broader canvas because it was a longer film and it was for all of Europe, so we wanted to create a broad sense of humanity - we didn't want to lecture people, instead we wanted to give them a good feeling about the world."

In the past, the CRE has used images of faeces and petrol coming through a letter box, under the slogan: "And you complain about junk mail."

Its last major campaign featured identical brains of European, African and Asian origin compared with a smaller brain labelled "racist".

However, Saatchi & Saatchi deny that the campaign marks a long-term departure for the CRE: "We are working on a much more hard-hitting campaign focused on the issue of discrimination against ethnic minority women," said Mr Gray. "Because it's a narrower topic than Equality, it lends itself to that."

The two-minute film was made by 14 of advertising's top directors. They included Jonathan Glazer, responsible for the Caffrey's beer advert in which a New York pub turns into scenes of Ireland, and Nick Lewin, who made the humorous "We Want to be together!" advert for The Prudential. The directors used free time during other shoots to make their films, which were then pieced together by Saatchi's editors.

The advert will run at full length in cinemas and on MTV, as well as in shorter versions on Channel 4 and other EU television channels.