I don’t say this often, and I don’t say this lightly, but stop what you’re doing and go and read Anil Dash’s screed, How To Fix Popchips’ Racist Ad Campaign. It’s not what you’d expect. Because it would be easy to sound off about the thoughtless callousness and disrespect of an ad campaign that for absolutely no apparent reason depicts Ashton Kutcher dressed up in vaguely Indian garb and coming out with patter that might have seemed out of place in British comedies from the 1970s (which did a lot to perfect the art of casual racism). Easy, but unhelpful. Instead, Dash takes a hard look at the culture in which this type of “creative” output was ever deemed appropriate, and has tough words for all concerned. Most of all, he pleas for all of them to avoid the usual measures of crisis management. Dash writes,
Those superficial corrections don’t change the process. Back at the office, the Chief Marketing Officer knows that all the people who hate that brand followed them on Twitter for the day to see how they’d respond, so they later crow to the CEO, “We got a 12% bump in social media metrics, looks like I get my bonus!” The PR firm says “Well, aside from the tiny minority of people who complained, we actually got a ton of media mentions, so I can still use this to pitch ourselves to our next client!” The advertising firm says, “We can still talk about making an ad that got millions of views on YouTube, and having worked on a multimillion dollar campaign for a national consumer brand”.
And the end result is, nothing actually changes.
It’s absolutely true, and anyone reading it who’s had any kind of tangential experience of content creation or advertising or marketing or design or the twenty first century knows it’s so. Sometimes mea culpas that follow such gaffes are somewhat genuine, but let’s face it, we live in a society that exploits cynicism to an extraordinary degree. This piece calls for us to be more thoughtful, to think harder, to accept our personal limitations and to be prepared to have an honest discussion about the imperfect society in which we live. It’s a beautiful, thoughtful, heartfelt piece of writing that has completely made my day. Really. Go and read it. Now.