Every age has its own kind of activism and ours is characterized by emancipation powered via internet culture. Hashtags such as #metoo, #resist and #blacklivesmatter (among others) are reshaping the way we view our online world. Thus, we have seen the rise of activism as a respected and even desirable pursuit. This appreciation of activism has risen to such heights that it has since become a marketing tool. But when ideals become tools for economic gain, they intrinsically devalue themselves. Activism, or striving for ideals and implementing them in one’s practice to eventually reach those ideals, cannot be used for economic gain, because it is by its own nature altruistic. However, we see brands trying to execute this in their marketing strategies today. The results in most cases are awkward; from recycling of slogans like Diesel’s ‘Make Love Not Walls’ , to Heineken’s odd film about two political opposites building a bar together, to a completely disastrous campaign like Pepsi’s Live for Now commercial. While the Diesel and Heineken ads were somehow tolerated
because of their focus on the message rather than a product, the Pepsi ad backfired completely. Pepsi was accused of trivializing the Black Live Matters movement by borrowing its stylized imagery and casting Kendall Jenner, whose public persona betrays a cluelessness about racial issues.
Audiences worldwide are increasingly influenced by activism everywhere, swiftly gaining a sense of morals that exceeds the understanding of multinational marketing teams. Thus, it is advisable for most brands to either steer clear of delivering advertising disguised as ideals and ethics, or to fully commit to these ideals and understand fully the specific branch of activism employed. On social media, hypocrisy will quickly be noticed, and the perpetrator risks being digitally skinned alive.
Text: Steven van den Haak
Illustration: Mario Dzurila
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