Thursday, December 11, 2008

You, Me and the Cellphone

Advertisers, P.R. reps and marketers are probably the first people to grab the latest book by Naomi Klein or leave the kids with their vegan cook/babysitter as they head off to see "Flow" or "The Corporation."

It is hard to imagine a group of people more inclined to pick up the latest hip, typographically-nuanced and limited-release polemic against the bourgeoisie. Certainly the rest of us aren't getting the daily press releases.

On the other hand, it's not hard to imagine the perverse thrills they must get from slipping self-aware gems like these into national ad campaigns:

Oh, my baby don't be so distressed
We're done with politesse
It's time to be so brutally honest about
The way we know we long for something fine
When we pine for higher ceilings
And bourgeois happy feelings

And here we are in the center of the first world
It's laid out before us, who are we to break down?

[Chorus]Everyday we wake up, we choose love, we choose light
And we try, it's too easy just to fall apart

While the instrumental has been playing across the country for months, the ad producers clearly felt as if the the irony was lost on the general population (but in our defense, we didn't know we liked this song until they showed us). In this commercial, they decided to rub their cleverness in our faces.

The song goes on to list the casual liberal's litany of vices: "Plastic bottles, imported water/ Cars we drive wherever we want to/ Clothes we buy, it's sweatshop labor/ Drugs from corporate enablers." Apple, who rebranded themselves as a consumer products company, should be more cautious about garnering too much inquiry into their eco-bourgeois credentials: despite pledges to 'green' their product line-up, Apple still regularly lags in the environmental rankings:

But still, breaking down the Apple commercial is just tongue-in-cheek fun. For some other companies, it is harder to see what is done out of sincerity and what is done out of jest:

But maybe buying cellphones is the greatest humanitarian act of all:
It may sound like corporate jingoism, but this sort of economic promise has also caught the eye of development specialists and business scholars around the world. Robert Jensen, an economics professor at Harvard University, tracked fishermen off the coast of Kerala in southern India, finding that when they invested in cellphones and started using them to call around to prospective buyers before they’d even got their catch to shore, their profits went up by an average of 8 percent while consumer prices in the local marketplace went down by 4 percent. A 2005 London Business School study extrapolated the effect even further, concluding that for every additional 10 mobile phones per 100 people, a country’s G.D.P. rises 0.5 percent.

Text messaging, or S.M.S. (short message service), turns out to be a particularly cost-effective way to connect with otherwise unreachable people privately and across great distances. Public health workers in South Africa now send text messages to tuberculosis patients with reminders to take their medication. In Kenya, people can use S.M.S. to ask anonymous questions about culturally taboo subjects like AIDS, breast cancer and sexually transmitted diseases, receiving prompt answers from health experts for no charge.

-NYTimes Magazine

1 comment:

  1. I've used Apple Computers since I was six years old because they were good . Not because they were hip. I'm very ambivalent about this rebranding as a fashion accessory thing that's been underway since the invention of the iPod.

    On the one hand, it's an ingenuous way to sell better (and slightly more expensive) computers to consumers. On the other hand, it brands Apple as a producer of hipster bullshit like the aforementioned ad. Oh well, as long as they keep making good products.

    Speaking of product quality, did you know the iPhone doesn't support flash? What were they thinking?