Saddened to learn about a Virgin Active South Africa advertising campaign that edited out Simone Botha Welgemoed’s hearing implant.
I’m glad the Virgin Active team immediately removed the ad and re-ran the campaign using the original images, including Simone’s Cochlear implant. However, it was a foolish error. I know this does not remove the hurt caused by this mistake, but I’d like to add my personal apologies to Simone too.
Devices that help people to hear should be celebrated. Virgin Unite has worked with the Starkey Hearing Foundation for many years to bring change through the gift of hearing to thousands of people. I have been fortunate on many occasions to fit hearing aids to people at the Bhubezi Community Healthcare Centre in South Africa and in Kenya. It is a truly incredible experience to be there and see people hear for the first time in their lives.
Hearing devices can have a life-changing impact, and the Starkey Hearing Foundation have fitted more than one million hearing aids to people in need around the world. But disabling hearing loss still affects millions of people and more awareness needs to be raised about how this issue can be tackled. With that in mind, I’d like to extend our very best wishes to Simone in her work as vocal representative of the hearing impaired community.
I have spoken to our senior team at Virgin Active South Africa, who had a positive heart-to-heart meeting with Simone and agreed to work with her around education on these important issues too. As they pointed out, photoshopping the image was absolutely not in line with Virgin’s values and our aim to make business a force for good. It will not happen again.