I have to be careful what I
say. After all, the advertising in this newspaper pays my salary.
But I've noticed a new trend
in the way big corporations present themselves to the world.
It's not enough anymore for a company to take out ad space just
to sell their goods and services. Now they want to be understood.
Darn it, they want to be loved.
They don't want us to form
a bad opinion of them based on what we read in the news. Forget
those oil spills, two-headed genetically modified cows or exploding
gas tanks. They care about us. They really do. And they want
you to know it.
Like the cigarette companies
in the US. They've been running commercials non-stop about how
they've cleaned up their act. No more sports advertising or glamourous
lifestyle ads. No more selling to kiddies. And they want to help
Of course they're running the
ads because they were beaten up so badly in the American courts.
That was after denying for forty years that smoking did anything
more harmful than make you more appealing to the opposite sex.
Like my grandmother said, you
might as well make a virtue of necessity.
Microsoft used the newspapers
to try to rally public opinion behind them when the US Department
of Justice was smacking them around pretty good. They took out
full page ads to appeal directly to the people to stop the federal
government's bullying. Of course the total value of Microsoft's
stock last year was about $600 billion.
Microsoft never really meant
to take over the world. Hey, US Federal Government, why don't
you pick on someone your own size? Like Europe.
The list goes on. We've recently
had ads about defective tire recalls. And whenever there's a
labour dispute both union and management assert the reasonableness
of their demands by taking out ads.
More and more I see full page
ads and television commercials 'explaining' why a company has
had to make hard decisions. Hard decisions include closing factories,
moving to Mexico, or cutting back wages while the president cashes
in his stock options.
From time to time utility companies
explain what a good job they're doing managing our resources
and providing us with essential services. We're always part of
their "family". Family or not, when a monopoly issues
a full page explanation of their 'responsibility' and 'commitment',
you can be sure that they are about to stick it to you good in
your next bill.
Air Canada's new president
has taken his personal message to the streets. You can't turn
on the TV or open a paper without reading about his promise that
within 180 days Air Canada will be run like a friendly and efficient
airline. Sort of like Canadian Airlines used to be.
At the moment Air Canada makes
me think of what an airline would be like if it was run by Revenue
Canada and the Post Office.
I'm not sure I'd be taking
out full page ads giving my personal word on making it better,
even if I gave myself half a year to do it.
Still, like I said, those ads
pay my salary. And there's some job security in knowing that
they're probably already written the next series of ads for 180
days from now, congratulating everyone on meeting their goals
and a job well done.