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ANZ Mardi Gras Ad 'Upsetting And Triggering', Some LGBTIQ Australians Say

A bank ad aiming to call out harmful homophobic slurs has been slammed as "ham-fisted", with some LGBTIQ Australians upset about ANZ's campaign in the lead-up to Mardi Gras.

Big bank ANZ this week launched a campaign in support of Sydney's Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, revealing research into homophobia and sharing "educational tools".

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The bank published research stating 80 percent of Australia's LGBTIQ+ community had experienced homophobic slurs in the last year, and "only 41 percent of ‘straight’ Australians believe that hurtful, homophobic or transphobic language towards the LGBTIQ+ community is a major issue today".

ANZ's "educational tools" included a Google Chrome plug-in extension, called 'the Hurt Blocker', which finds and replaces "hurtful language" on the internet with "celebratory emojis such as rainbows, unicorns and hearts".

The bank shared a tweet showing how a phrase like "trans people are sick" would be changed to "trans people are sick of being sooooo fabulous".

The campaign features media personality Benjamin Law, AFLW star Moana Hope, and advocate Georgie Stone, the 2018 Victorian Young Australian of the Year, as spokespeople.

An example of the 'Hurt Blocker' plugin in use. Image: ANZ

But the bank has come under fire for its 'Love Speech' film, in which LGBTIQ Australians speak harmful slurs directly down the barrel of the camera.

ANZ said the ad aimed to promote the idea that "words do hurt", and that it "underscores the profoundly negative effects hurtful language has" -- but it has been slammed by other LGBTIQ Aussies, who say it is confronting and upsetting.

The ANZ campaign has been slammed by some LGBTIQ Australians. Image: ANZ

"The first rule of effective campaigning is you don't repeat your opponent's argument," LGBTIQ activist Nic Holas told 10 daily.

"It's very difficult to watch those young queer people repeat incredibly hurtful slurs, without warning. As a campaigner, it's just bad. Really ineffective, shock tactic stuff dressed up as a corporation caring about LGBTQ people."

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Holas -- co-founder of The Institute of Many, an advocacy platform for people living with HIV -- said the campaign was "not helpful", and that large corporations like ANZ would be better placed in donating money to grassroots groups.

"When non-experts with lots of cash think they can solve the problem of hate speech, you end up with ham-fisted, potentially harmful stuff like this," he said.

Fellow LGBTIQ activist Sally Rugg said the ad was "unhelpful, upsetting and triggering", suggesting that the ad was "worth a recut with the slurs bleeped out".

Melbourne-based queer activist and academic Joshua Badge said the campaign was not helpful, and only engaged in LGBTIQ issues in a "superficial" way.

"It’s clear that ANZ wanted to be edgy with the campaign, but many LGBTI people face these slurs every day. Using them in an ad to promote ANZ as a gay-friendly business is confronting and confusing," he told 10 daily.

"At the end of the day, the ad and the browser extension don’t help queer people in a real way. They’re a superficial performance of being “gay-friendly” to attract more business. It's not about us; it's about ANZ."

The ANZ campaign has been criticised as "superficial". Image: ANZ

Holas and Rugg were both at pains to not criticise the LGBTIQ people featuring in the ad, with Rugg saying "absolutely zero shade to the community members featured in the ANZ ad - all power to them ."

"I really hope the young queer folks in this ad feel supported. This is not about them or their choice to be in this ad, or the high-profile queers who have been engaged to endorse this campaign online," Holas said.

Stone, one of the spokespeople for the campaign, tweeted that she was "so happy" to support the campaign. Law tweeted that the "campaign is timely", citing the research around anti-queer slurs.

10 daily has contacted ANZ for comment. In tweets replying to critics, the bank defended the ad and campaign.

ANZ tweeted that it "considered a range of community views and sought necessary classifications and ratings before sharing online", and that those featured in the ad "are all real people who we paid for their time and have personally experienced hurtful language".

"By creatively editing frequently used hurtful phrases to give them a new meaning, we hope to create awareness, understanding and unity," another ANZ tweet said.

Badge said he was disappointed by ANZ's response.

"Worse than the empty gesture of the campaign was ANZ's response to criticism. Rather than reflect on what they could have done better, they doubled down and staunchly ignored the concerns of community," he said.