Change makers: Changing Faces

The charity's Stand Out campaign encouraged the public to think differently about people with facial disfigurements

One of the posters from the Stand Out campaign
One of the posters from the Stand Out campaign

The Stand Out campaign was launched in 2008 by Changing Faces, a charity that supports and represents people with conditions or injuries that affect their appearance. The campaign challenged the public to think about their attitudes and reactions to people with disfigurement.

Alison Rich, the external relations manager at Changing Faces, says members of the public still remember it. Stand Out has formed the charity's "whole movement and principle of face equality", she adds. Its success later enabled the charity to run a similar one featuring children.

The campaign posters, which featured the images of adults with facial disfigurements and the line "Stand Out. Show your support for Face Equality", were designed pro bono by the advertising agency DDB. They appeared on the London Underground and billboards around the country, which were donated free of charge.

The campaign was designed after research commissioned by the charity found that people who had facial disfigurements were likely to be marginalised because little was expected of them, socially and professionally.

Although all respondents claimed to have no prejudice against those with facial disfigurements, the study said that nine out of 10 of those surveyed held implicit prejudices. People had difficulty associating positive words with the images, but easily associated negative words.

"The campaign got people to look at how they might be thinking, their reactions and how it translated into their behaviour," says Rich. "It's a powerful thing making people's unconscious attitudes more conscious."

She believes the campaign was brave in its simplicity. "The people in the posters look you in the eye and the colours of the images are soft," she says. "They are very beautifully shot and the expressions on the faces are compelling."

Rich says the campaign was "bold and matter of fact" and enabled people to confront a subject they found uncomfortable. "It was very much about asking searching questions and creating conversations," she says. "Lots of people have since told us that after seeing the posters they were far more aware of the charity as a campaigning force for change."

The campaign was picked up by the media, with the featured adults being interviewed on national television, enabling the message to be shared with an even wider audience.

Expert view: Peter Gilheany, Director, Forster

The biggest challenge this campaign faced was communicating clearly, powerfully and positively without alienating the intended audience or succumbing to the risk of being exploitative or being accused of such.

It succeeded because it captured the humanity and confidence of the three people featured, and gently gave the audience permission to acknowledge their own prejudice and subsequent guilt on looking at people with facial disfigurement, thus providing them with a positive way of channelling those feelings into support.

Charity campaigns often have to tread a fine line between creating hard-hitting messages and exploiting or victimising the people they work with. It would have been easy for this campaign to use the prejudice of the people viewing the posters as a stick to hit them with. It was all the more powerful for not doing so.

You can see it as a pioneer for the positive and confident tone of voice and approach used in promotion of the Paralympics in 2012.

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