Belgian advertising awards organisation, Creative Belgium, wants great writers to write an apology. An apology to the Congo on behalf of the Belgian people for atrocities committed during colonisation.
Geoffrey Hantson, creative director at Happiness, an FCB alliance, and board member of Creative Belgium, noted, “Writing a thoughtful and sincere apology is not an easy task. You have to be able to empathise. Not only do you need to realise what is at stake, you also must try to put yourself in the shoes of the people you are addressing. Every detail counts – your tone of voice, your choice of words, the semantics you use, and most importantly the final content you will ultimately put to paper. We could state that a well written apology is a copywriter’s ultimate accomplishment.”
The five best letters will be published online on May 17, 2019. The Belgian people can then vote for their favourite apology. The winning letter will be published on May 31, 2019. The authors of the 40 best letters will be invited for a two-day masterclass in copywriting.
“We hope that the Congolese people will see this as a sign that they have allies among the Belgians,” stated Happiness: an FCB Alliance, the agency behind the campaign.
“Words are powerful, a truth the communications industry is well aware of. The impact of our messages and actions comes with great responsibility. That is why we need to have smart and responsible writers. It is the reason we are constantly searching for compassionate, clever writers.”
Hantson continued, “Our Prime Minister has just apologised to the Metis children of the colony (children with a Congolese mother and Belgian father), but what about all the other Congolese people? The public debate shows a lot of Belgians agree that Belgium has to come clean with its colonial history and should apologise to the people of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Neither our king nor the government has taken action so far. But do we, as Belgian citizens, need to wait for them to make amends? Why can’t we take responsibility for the mistakes of our ancestors? As a people we can take a stand, and we can do what our king and government fail to do.”
The campaign serves two purposes – to answer the Belgian government’s failure to apologise for past atrocities and to drive great copywriting. In Belgium, there is a lack of writing courses for (aspiring) copywriters. So, once in every five years, the Belgian advertising industry organises its own masterclass in copywriting. To allow as many people as possible to enter this class, professional copywriter or not, Creative Belgium, has made the challenge completely open. All Belgians can take part and send in a letter.
Isabelle Van den Broeck, managing director at Creative Belgium, stated, “Copywriters can make a difference for brands, but good writing can also have a profound impact on society as a whole. It is true that by applying for this competition you are able to win a job as a copywriter in an advertising agency, but more importantly, this campaign has the power to show that copywriters, and words, can be of social significance. The right words can unite people. That is the true power of writing.”
The jury includes representatives of both the African community in Belgium and decolonising experts. Included in the jury are Dalilla Hermans (writer), Nadia Nsayi (Broederlijk Delen), Don Pandzou (diversity expert at De Ambrassade), Marc Reynebeau (journalist), Sarah De Bisschop (director), Deborah Houttave (student African languages), Tracy Bibo-Tansia (political scientist), Guillaume van der Stighelen (columnist, former advertiser), Stef Selfslagh (journalist, former copywriter), Frédéric Brébant (journalist) and Stella Nyanchama Okemwa (activist).