Optus launches a sign-language campaign on TikTok with #SignYes
The campaign includes a sign-language activated filter that teaches TikTok users key phrases in Auslan sign language. Users will then use the #SignYes hashtag to upload videos of them signing. *This article has been updated
Updated* 27 July, 12:19pm: This campaign has been put on pause by Optus following some backlash on social media. A user @isigniwander tweeted that while the campaign seemed well intentioned, it did not feature members of the deaf community. Another user @Catherine__Dunn tweeted on the day that the campaign launched that it appeared tokenistic because it did not feature captions. It seemed unclear to several users whether Optus had consulted with the deaf community.
In response, an Optus spokesperson has said: “We are incredibly sorry to anyone we have offended with our Optus #SignYes Challenge. This was not our intent. The launch of this campaign was to inspire change…
“We have been collaborating and working with members of the Australian Deaf and hard of hearing community to ensure the campaign didn’t miss the mark, but it clearly did so we have paused our campaign with our respectful apology while we engage with the wider Deaf community to ensure we are achieving what we set out to do in a respectful way.”
We have paused our campaign with our respectful apology while we engage with the wider Deaf or hard of hearing community to ensure we are achieving what we set out to do in a respectful way. (3/3)
— Optus (@Optus) July 24, 2021
The campaign features Optus ambassador Ian Thorpe. Optus will amplify the campaign during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games, utilising ambassadors such as Paralympians Ellie Cole and Nic Beveridge.
“Building off the impact of educational content in Australia, as well as the success of causal content on TikTok, we believe there is potential in developing a hashtag challenge that teaches Australians rudimentary sign language,” says Optus’ head of marketing Mel Hopkins.
To activate the filter, the user needs to make the sign for ‘yes’ by moving their fist up and down. The filter then guides them through some basic gestures in Auslan and explains what they mean.
The campaign touches on themes of inclusion and education. Ian Thorpe, says he is proud to be featured in a campaign that inspires Australians to learn sign language: “Recent studies suggest that 1 in 6 people in Australia are deaf or hard of hearing but despite this, barely any of us can use sign language.”
Brett Armstrong, the general manager of TikTok Global Business Solutions, ANZ, says that Optus has been one of TikTok’s most innovative partners since the platform was launched in Australia.
“TikTok is a place where diverse communities thrive and everyone can feel welcome, and it’s exciting to see Optus leaning in so creatively to what makes our platform so special,” added Armstrong.
* This article was updated to include details about Optus’ decision to pause the campaign.