David Mitchell’s Observer Column

It was quite interesting yesterday.

First he talked about the recent news that kids are being used as brand ambassadors. Like me, he didn’t think this was a big deal as he assumed that it had been going on for a while already.

Then he talked about Kraft’s recent takeover of Cadbury:

‘…the consequent, regrettable job losses are not because of a sudden lapse of conscience at Cadbury; from the day its stock was floated, it didn’t have a conscience, any more than a circular saw has a soul or a great white shark a sense of irony.’

Exactly. It’s amazing how we think that corporations are in business for anything other than money (I guess a very few are in it for something else, but money drives about 99.99999999999999999999999999999999% of them). Businesses know we like to anthropomorphise them and they like to exploit this through a process known as ‘branding‘. This is essentially a way of making a soulless, faceless entity appear to have a face and a soul, and we all lap it up day after day.

He goes on to talk about all those Books for Schools/Playgrounds for Poor Areas schemes, pointing out that their only function is to make more money for the corporation, and that maybe we shouldn’t participate in them:

‘”Well, wouldn’t that be a shame for schools?” you might say. Not really. Companies would have to woo us honestly, with better services or lower prices, and would be unable to cream off enough to sling a few coppers in our education system’s begging hat. But customers could always spend their saving on schools, directly or through taxation, rather than via the purchase of 2,000 creme eggs, 4% of the value of which would go towards a basketball hoop.’

I wrote a post about that in this blog’s previous location. The strange, complicated and ultimately wasteful relationship that we have with brands is an odd kind of insanity, yet most of us can’t stop ourselves participating in it.

And as people who create ads, we don’t only participate, we engineer.

Did you know you were doing that?

Do you care?