The Ethical Bandwagon

levisPSFK writes about an apparently lame attempt by Levis to jump on the ethical bandwagon:

The photo shows the mannequins in the NYC Broadway window telling us all to volunteer our time for social good – but why? This all might sound quite worthy but it comes across as patronizing and cheap. Enough said. Too little, too late.

Looking at the picture, it seems hard to argue with that take on the campaign. 

Grant McCracken, meanwhile, writes about a Nike ad he saw in a Sunday New York Times.  It’s written to “ignorance” and deals with the Don Imus/Rutgers basketball team situation.  I’m sure you can guess the gist of the ad, even without reading it.  As McCracken transcribes it:

Thank you, ignorance.
Thank you for starting the conversation.
Thank you for making an entire nation listen to the Rutger’s (sic) team story.
And for making us wonder what other great stories we’ve missed.
Thank you for reminding us to think before we speak.
Thank you for showing us how strong and poised 18 and 20-year-old women can be.
Thank you for reminding us that another basketball tournament goes on in March.
Thank you for showing us that sport includes more than the time spent on the court.
Thank you for unintentionally moving women’s sport forward.
And thank you for making all of us realize that we still have a long way to go.
Next season starts 11.16.07.

McCracken’s attitude about it can be summed up in three words: “Well done, Nike.” 

What am I missing?  How is this different than Levis’ attempt at ethics?  Why does Nike feel they can teach me about ethics?  Why does the company feel the need to preach to me?  I can’t believe this stuff works.  It uses both the Rutgers basketball players and Imus to try to create goodwill for a brand.  How crass is that? 

McCracken goes on to say:

Naturally, this is strategically challenging.  It is not yet clear exactly where this development will “net out.”  So there is an element of risk.

Huh?  The only risk about this ad is whether it made it into the paper before the story died down.  There was absolutely no risk about it, and that is one of the things that makes it so fatuous.  Several years ago Benetton ran an ad campaign that created quite a furor.  It’s 1992 ads included AIDS victims, African guerrillas, and mafia  bombings.  Still motivated by gaining attention for the brand, but no doubt including some actual company held principles, and risky.  Whatever you thought about the motivation behind the ads, they were risky (although they would not be today).  The Nike ad? Pandering, not risky.  Sorry, I just don’t see how this kind of pile-on advertising helps a brand sell more product.

If Nike wanted to take a strong stand for justice for athletes, where were they when the Duke lacrosse players were being persecuted?  Let’s see, those athletes were wealthy, white males, with high-priced attorneys, attending a private university, playing a game viewed as the domain of wealthy, white males, attending private schools.  Hmmmm. 

Too risky. 

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