Poverty, Disease, and Pollution

If society could adapt to change as readily as marketing firms, the world would likely be a different place. Not for the faint of heart; advertising requires cunning and the ability to disregard conscience and morality. Success granted to those able to put their finger on the prevailing social winds.

Social media is the ad man’s wet dream. Hit “Like” on Facebook, print coupons, sign up for free offers; not only are we doing half the work for them – our actions are tracked and analyzed. It gives the expression “finger on the pulse of the nation” a whole new meaning.

These days poverty, disease, and pollution satisfy the corporate bottom line. Buzz words like ethical, organic, environmentally friendly, and fair trade line the coffers. Philanthropy for profit, a resounding success. Anyone who thinks otherwise is sadly mistaken.

Known as “strategic marketing” or “cause marketing”, companies attaching themselves to social issues put smiles on shareholder faces. In 2006 the “Red” campaign was launched to raise money for Aids in Africa. Championing the cause were Bono and Oprah. Virgin, Converse, Dell, Armani, Motorola, Apple, and the Gap all sold “red” products with a portion of sales going to Aids relief. That year a reported 18 million dollars was donated; over 100 million was spent on the ad campaign, and profits for companies involved skyrocketed. Granted, they raised some money. Call me cynical but ponder what the 100 million they spent on advertising could have done. If conscious of anything other than profits, a true act of charity would tell the story.

Corporate branding with tragedy has become a slick, calculated marketing strategy. I fail to find anything ethical about this illusion. All I ask is that before going out of your way to purchase these socially branded products; you stop and think. If you believe in a cause; find a reputable charity and donate directly. Send the ad men back to the drawing board; profiting from tragedy is despicable.

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