More Faux Cause Marketing

You ever go to a fancy gala and read the program with all the awkward sponsor announcements in the back?
You know: “The Investment Counselors at Second Fidelity and Trust Congratulate Sumner Redstone as the First Children’s 2010 Father of the Year and Wish Him Every Success!”
That’s kind of what’s at work in this ad from the inflight magazine called Delta Sky.

The magazine had a special feature on Pittsburgh and in that feature was this ad from Bayer, which has its North American headquarters there. On June 5, Pittsburgh hosted the United Nation’s event World Environment Day, and Bayer and its foundation, along with other Pittsburgh corporate mainstays like Alcoa and Heinz, were among the sponsors.

But look at the visual. There’s a shirtless boy gratefully drinking clean water straight from the spigot, a spigot which has that fat, ragged-looking weld that suggests ‘developing world.’ It’s a really splendid picture.

When I saw it, that visual told me that Bayer was doing some kind of clean water campaign in the developing world. Cool! I thought. Although I couldn’t quite locate the positive connection between Bayer and clean water.

And then I read the body copy, which reads in part:
“In a rapidly growing world population, safe drinking water is becoming more scarce. Protecting this valuable resource is a long-time commitment for Bayer. One that we continue to grow at our North American headquarters in Pittsburgh — a city that has revitalized its three rivers to ensure a cleaner, more sustainable future.”
There’s more, but it doesn’t get any better. But the person at fault, in my view, isn’t the copywriter, it’s the art director. This looks like a cause marketing ad because of the visual. It’s not. It’s a self-conscious congratulations ad to the city of Pittsburgh. One in which the picture’s telling a story that isn’t really true.

A pity.
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