Why I Won’t Be Wearing Black Today…

The short version: wearing black does as much to stop rape as growing a moustache cures cancer or changing your Facebook profile picture does to combat poaching.

The long version: Rape is wrong regardless of any context. The question is how to combat it effectively and while I don’t have a quick answer to that, I do know the answer is not another useless media campaign.

And yet, we still have these stupid campaigns like “honk your horn for 60 seconds to stop rape”, “play a beep on the radio every 4 minutes to raise awareness of rape” and the latest one “wear black to raise awareness of rape”. It’s not difficult to see why these are popular though. It gives people a chance to claim that moral highground and feel like they’re “doing something” without doing anything at all.

“Real Men Don’t Rape” is my favourite because it clears me as a man from having to do anything. By mere virtue of the fact that I’m not raping anyone, I have done my bit to support to the cause. Yay me.

These campaigns are for those armchair activists who make up the majority of the people who get behind these ludicrous “initiatives”. The ones who like to be seen doing something but don’t really want to get involved (they wait to see which trend to follow instead of acting proactively). Getting involved is messy so the next best thing is “raising awareness”.

Really?

We need to raise awareness about rape? Why? We don’t need to be told rape is wrong…like we don’t need to be told child abuse is wrong or murder is wrong or stealing is wrong. In most countries, these acts have already been considered to be harmful to society and thus have been criminalised, with punishments in place if you choose to commit those crimes…regardless of your own ideas about those issues. So no, we don’t need to be made aware that rape is wrong. Anyway, awareness campaigns are truly the opiate of the slacktivist. They require the least amount of disruption to one’s day (even listening for the beep counts as doing something, right?), while being incredibly visible, oh-so-trendy and governed by a finite lifespan. Go check the Twitter feeds of those folks who came out loud and proud last Friday with the #StopRape “Radio beep every 4 minutes” campaign and see how much that carried through their feeds until today. Even the radio stations behind the campaign dropped it. And that’s the best bit about these campaigns, because the slacktivist is told what to do, so it doesn’t need to think for itself.

We don’t need that. What we need is action.

Social issue awareness campaigns that lack proper cohesive action on the ground achieve absolutely nothing.

Wait. I think that’s worth repeating: Social issue awareness campaigns that lack proper cohesive action on the ground achieve absolutely nothing.

Remember “We are the world”? It was a great song, written to help raise awareness of and bring relief to those suffering from malnutrition and famine in Africa. Since its release in 1985, the project has raised over $63 million for humanitarian causes. The long term initiative included efforts in birth control and food production. From the African fund, over 70 recovery and development projects were launched in seven African nations – including aid in agriculture, fishing, water management, manufacturing and reforestation in countries such as Mozambique, Senegal, Chad, Mauritania, Burkina Faso and Mali. Result.

Remember how everyone was all #Kony2012 last year? You DO remember that, right? It was the one with Ugandan warlord, Joseph Kony, who was filling the ranks of his army with child-soldiers and someone came out with an awareness campaign to “help” those “invisible children” and get Kony arrested by the end of 2012. Well guess what? Kony’s still in charge of his army and last I checked, #Kony2013 wasn’t trending. All that hashtagging and handwringing and moral outrage and absolutely zero material change. And that’s what’s needed: material change.

What do I mean by material change? Here’s an example: many rape victims don’t come forward to report the crime because it is just too traumatic to recall. What we need is to make it law that every police station has a 24 hour rape unit in-house, comprising of detectives, counsellors and surgeons who have been trained to handle these cases with the sensitivity and urgency they demand. That’s a material change. It will take work to effect it though. You would have to go out and petition your local political representative. Put the pressure on them to act decisively and push this through into actual policy, backed by law, to ensure that there’s accountability and punishment for non-compliance. Now this idea won’t stop rape today – and it won’t stop rape on its own. There is a chance though that if these units are in place and more rapists are brought to justice faster and punished to the fullest extent of the law, we may actually see a decrease in the crime. If nothing else, the survivors will see justice being served.

So I urge you: please start finding ways to make a real change. One law firm tweeted that they would be handling all rape cases pro bono. That’s a real, useful change. And if you can’t think of a way to make a change, then donate generously to those people who are on the ground making a change. Set aside a sum that you can afford each month and give.

I just want to add one last point closing: I would like to think that the armchair activists are the way they are because they don’t know any better. I would like to think that if someone with an actual plan stood up and said, “We need to do more than just trend a hashtag!” that the slacktivists would actually roll up their sleeves and get stuck in. So what we need is real leadership on this issue, accountable leadership that will show the rest of us how we can actually make the changes we so desperately need in our society. Until then, there will be no change and things will have to get a lot worse before they get better.

Nando’s Vs Santam (Round 3)

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Nandos. Who doesn’t love them? I’ll tell you: mean spirited kitty-kicking Communists, that’s who. Maybe. Or maybe they also like Nandos. Anyway, it’s all besides the point. The point is that in addition to making awesome chicken (IMHO; that endorsement was not paid for), they also do great advertising…especially when they do send-ups of other brands. 

The most recent battle is playing out as you read this. It’s Nandos vs Santam…and I think maybe this time, the chickens will have to put their money where their mouth is.

The original (featuring Sir Ben Kingsley, no less)

The parody

The knock-out(?)

What’s cool about this is that there’s no stupid litigation involved. Instead, SANTAM has chosen to rather use a tactic that not only makes them look like a bunch of guys who can take a joke but also give a damn about people less fortunate than themselves. 

Well played, SANTAM. Well played.

Unusual Suspects: Skittles, Arizona Iced Tea and the Death of Trayvon Martin…

The recent killing of American youth Trayvon Martin has been a flashpoint in race relations across the United States. Briefly: Trayvon (a black guy) was shot and killed in an allegedly unprovoked attack by George Zimmerman (a white guy). If you want more details, you can Google but what’s really surreal is the sudden wave of negative publicity that’s assailing the Skittles and Arizona Iced Tea brands. Yeah, that looks a little unrelated doesn’t it?

Anyway, here’s the catch-up: when Trayvon’s body was inspected, he was found to be carrying nothing more than a packet of Skittles and a bottle of Arizona Iced Tea.

The news spread like wildfire and the community rallied around these brands as key talking points, illustrating the ludicrousness of Zimmerman’s claim that he had acted in self-defence. As these things are wont to do, it took a life of its own, with protestors using the brands as visuals in their actions. For example:

Lets have an #AUCHoodieMarch for Trayvon Martin. We all wear hoodies and pass out skittles and bottles of tea. Anyone interested? (@LaurenRichelle1).

EVERYBODY BUY A BAG OF SKITTLES FOR THE MEMORY OFTRAYVON MARTIN #R.I.P. (@TeddyMeech)

And of course, there’s the Facebook presence too…

Now both Skittles and Arizona Iced Tea have been accused of profiting from this unfortunate incident. Apparently, all these mentions add up to free advertising, earned media if you will, and there are people who aren’t happy about that.

That is disingenuous at best. Nowhere in any form do Skittles or Arizona Iced Tea associate themselves publicly with Trayvon or the incident – other than in sympathy with his loved ones. There are no official Skittle or Arizona Iced Tea sales campaigns on behalf of Trayvon. What has happened is that people have latched onto these brands as symbols of Trayvon’s innocence. Again, this is not a corporate campaign. No-one in a boardroom said, “Sales are down. Let’s have some white guy shoot some black guy in self-defence but wait…here’s the kicker. When they search the dead black kid, guess what? No weapons. Just Skittles. Genius, right!?” This kind of thinking makes no sense. It’s like saying Ford should cough up for all those extra mentions all those years ago when OJ SImpson made a run for it in his Ford Bronco. 

Grow up America. Don’t let this become an issue because if it does, all you’re doing is trivialising the loss of a human life and losing sight of the fact that there are problems that desperately need solving within your communities. Fix that first.

And to Skittles and Arizona Iced Tea, you guys need to move faster to solidify your position in this matter. Stand up, decry the incident loudly and be vocal about the accusations that you guys are actively working to profit from this tragedy. And pray that calm heads prevail.

Hitler Keeps It Squeaky Clean…

So here’s Hitler shilling for shampoo brand, Biomen and reminding you that if you’re not the kind of guy who wears women’s clothing, then you shouldn’t use a women’s shampoo [loosely translated from the Turkish]…

Yeah, I know some people are outraged but frankly I don’t see why. If we can all laugh at the Hitler Bunker meme, why can’t we laugh at this ad (other than the fact that it’s as funny as herpes)? It’s not a good ad, at all but it’s also not the worst I’ve seen. Take for example this piece of genius from the good folks over at Sylvania Light Bulbs in Thailand…

I got nothing.

Dolce & Gabbana Slip Up…

Dick Cheney LOVES these guys...maybe.

Sixteen thousand kilometers. That’s the distance from Cape Town, South Africa to Milan, Italy. It’s about 9 days to drive there. So it’s a quite a distance. Dolce & Gabbana’s head office doesn’t seem to think so. In fact, it would appear that they believe it’s the same as being on the same block…if their recent litigation against Cape Town brand &Banana is anything to go by.

Briefly, &Banana used to be Dolce & Banana, which is a cute play on the global brand’s name. &Banana sells jewellery and purses in a market where D&G doesn’t even have an outlet. Nonetheless, when the owner of &Banana was face with a lawsuit and forced to change the name of her business, she complied. Now, D&G want her to pay their $13 000 in legal costs and it looks like they’re not going to let it go.

D&G really aren’t doing themselves any favours here. While it’s true that legally they may have had a claim against &Banana, they could have easily brought her into the fold as it were, maybe even given her some support by tipping their hat to her and just basically come off like a serious business that understands a joke when it sees it. Instead, they’ve got their proverbial panties in a twist and now, not content with having bullied a smaller business that was no competition at all for their brand, they want to leave it a few grand poorer.

Well done, Dolce & Gabanna. You’ve proven that your brand doesn’t understand anything but profits. Clearly business must be really bad if you’re stooping this low to get some coins to fatten up that bottom line. And while you may never really care about what anyone thinks and while your target market may not give a damn, rest assured that D&G has been negatively selected from my list of brands to purchase going forward. No, it’s not much but I for one won’t be spending a red cent on a brand that’s as ruthless as Dolce & Gabanna.

By the way, there’s a Dolce & Banana sandwich bar in the States and a Dolce & Banana grocer in the UK. Oh and a Dolce & Banana Kids, which raises money for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. They all better watch their backs. Who knows how much more litigious Dolce & Gabbana will get before the end of their financial year?

Microsoft Gets It…Right?

I hate Microsoft. I really do. Oh, and you Apple-heads can shut up too because I’m not that much of a fan of the Cult Of Jobs either.

Anyway, if you’ve read this blog for any amount of time, you’ll know about my aforementioned disdain for Microsoft. From their sophomoric attempts to ingratiate themselves with their market to that abysmal advertising abortion starring Jerry Seinfeld, Microsoft have time and again given me cause to stand up…and run for the bathroom before I projectile vomit all over my (LINUX POWERED) computer in a physical manifestation of my disgust at having been subjected to their inanity.

That said, I think they may be on to something with this new campaign. Presenting the browser you loved to hate, the new IE campaign from Microsoft.

So it looks like Microsoft have tried to shoot for the humour angle…and self-deprecating humour at that. Maybe they’ve finally figured out, if the whole world thinks you’re a joke, you may as well laugh along with them.

My only issue is the slight residual taste of arrogance in the used of  “loveD“. To my mind, that’s a little premature. Rather let the market decide if they still hate you or not. It would have been cooler if they were all about a full-on conversion campaign and then got folks to give up their favourite browsers for a week in favour of IE – and shot it documentary style. Maybe they’ll do that for phase 2?

Fallouts And Unfollows…

So following yesterday’s post about the 2oceansvibe thing (which I don’t care to rehash) out here, I noticed something interesting: a drop-off in Twitter followers. At first blush, this phenomenon is barely worth mentioning but it bears looking into since this is essentially the digital equivalent of “I don’t want to play with you anymore”. The same can be said about Facebook and the unfriending vibe.

Why this is interesting, is simply that the line between personal and professional is so easily blurred out in the social media environment. More often than not, a professional or academic opinion is taken as a personal attack. The existence and acceptance of Godwin’s Law (despite its being pedagogical or rhetorical) is proof that such histrionics in reaction to opposing ideals in the digital sphere is commonplace. In fact, if ever there was a space that required more objectivity, it would be social media. The levels of passive-aggression are simply beyond measure. What is more, rational discourse around any topic is nigh-on impossible. Ad hominem arguments abound and what should be a debate (or at least a conversation) becomes a bunfight, fraught with the tactics employed by pre-schoolers in a playground screaming match.

So why does it matter if people unfriend/unfollow/unsubscribe to you? It doesn’t. Well, at least it doesn’t matter to you. What it means though in the greater scheme of things is that as people choose to surround themselves with likeminded individuals (and by likeminded I mean thought-clones), they shut themselves off to opposing or differing points of view. Essentially, this places them in an echo-chamber where all they hear is their own opinion being amplified exponentially. This same echo-chamber eventually intensifies until dissenting voices are shouted down and vilified for disagreeing before being expelled from the group. No, it’s not melodramatic. It’s mob mentality. And as we all know, the stupidity levels of people in great numbers can and should never be underestimated.

Back to the point of departure though. Sure, I’m now a few followers down on Twitter. Now, these are people who’ve decided that my reaction to a situation didn’t sit well with them and despite the (I hope) mutually entertaining time we’ve had on the platform, that’s enough to sever ties. And that begs that we question the strength of these ties in the first place. Issues of engagement, loyalty, authority and efficacy come into play. I’m not questioning the relationships between myself and the followers. I’m questioning just how strong the ties can be if they’re built on this platform.

I tend to believe that no engagement out in the digital world can replace real-time interaction. Sure, it can augment an existing relationship and it can initiate the genesis of relationship but it can’t sustain one. Not alone, anyway and out there, the dynamic of a relationship is even more fragile than you would expect. In marketing terms, it’s the symbiosis between these two environments that can create, build and sustain a relationship.

Ultimately though, the current outlook of the social media world is one based on tribes of people who really don’t want to engage with others who don’t subscribe to their way of thinking. In fact, the more correct way to describe people out here would be as sheep or fish or any other creature with a herd mentality. And that is sad because now we’ve done the complete opposite of what social media was intended for. Instead of bringing us together, it’s amplified our differences and our dislike for things that are different.

The question is: can we reverse this or is social media just an amplification of our own base natures?