Monday, July 26, 2010

What changed since the era of Mad Men? Not much when it comes to E-Readers!

Don Draper can sell you (almost) anything. One of the best examples for his brightness and creativity was his "It's Toasted" moment, when he created the slogan for Lucky Strike cigarettes.

Don defines in the meeting with the Lucky Strike guys the essence of advertising in that era - "Advertising is based on one thing: happiness. And you know what happiness is?The smell of a new car, it's freedom from fear. It's a billboard on the side of the road that screams with reassurance that whatever you're doing it's OK - you are OK."

Has anything changed since then? Not much. At least not when it comes to ads of of e-readers that sell you the same perception of happiness, mixed with some coolness.

The first example is the iPad:

So, yes, iPad is thin and beautiful. You can even claim it's magical. Maybe it's already a revolution. It's all true. But at the same time, "it's toasted" is also true. It's just not ALL of the truth. So just like Lucky Strike didn't mention the fact their cigarettes can kill you, Apple also avoids sharing some facts that aren't that happy and might let you think you're not that OK if you buy it.

Here are just couple of examples:

The iPad is manufactured at Foxconn, a Chinese factory, where 14 young workers attempted or committed suicide, the last one only couple of days ago. Foxconn was described by Li Qiang, an executive director of New York-based China Labor Watch, as a sweatshop that “tramples” workers’ personal values for the sake of efficiency."

These suicides got representatives of nearly 50 socially responsible investing groups to issue a public call to the electronics industry to step up their oversight of suppliers as reports today: "The statement, signed by 45 members of the investment community, condemns abusive workplace conditions in the electronics industry, where a recent spate of suicides at Foxconn -- supplier to some of the industry's largest firms, including Apple, Dell, Hewlett Packard and many others -- led to widespread criticism of the company and its customers, and which pressured Foxconn to offer significant raises to its workers."

2. Minerals that are used to make components for many electronic devices, including the iPad, are bought from Congo, helping to finance a horrible war there. These minerals are usually referred to as "conflict minerals". Nicholas Kristof wrote about it lately on the New York Times:

"I’ve never reported on a war more barbaric than Congo’s, and it haunts me. In Congo, I’ve seen women who have been mutilated, children who have been forced to eat their parents’ flesh, girls who have been subjected to rapes that destroyed their insides. Warlords finance their predations in part through the sale of mineral ore containing tantalum, tungsten, tin and gold. For example, tantalum from Congo is used to make electrical capacitors that go into phones, computers and gaming devices.

Electronics manufacturers have tried to hush all this up. They want you to look at a gadget and think “sleek,” not “blood.”"

Apple response? Steve Jobs wrote to a concerned customer that "We require all of our suppliers to certify in writing that they use conflict few materials. But honestly there is no way for them to be sure. Until someone invents a way to chemically trace minerals from the source mine, it’s a very difficult problem." Definitely not screaming with reassurance that what you do (purchasing the iPad is OK)..

And what about Amazon's Kindle? Well, Amazon is no different of course, presenting an ad with a catchy and happy tune:

Reality check? Well, the Kindle just like the iPad is been manufactured at Foxconn and has also the same conflict minerals sourcing problems. Somehow (maybe because Amazon is even less transparent about these issues than Apple) Apple is more on the line of fire on these issues, but it doesn't mean that the Kindle is better with regards to these issues.

And the same goes for B&N's Nook: Very happy ad vs. a much more complicated reality:

Bottom line: The legacy of Don Draper's vision is live and kicking when it comes to e-readers! They're not cigarettes of course and they won't kill you, but don't forget the happy fuzzy feeling they try to sell you is just a sales pitch and nothing more. Reality is always more complicated and many times very different from the one you see on these 30 seconds.

And of course, don't forget to enjoy the fabulous season 4 of Mad Men that started yesterday. I know I will :)

Raz @ Eco-Libris

Eco-Libris: Promoting Sustainable Reading!