I’ve got nothing against blatantly self-promoting one’s business, but my hypocrisy does know some bounds and there are some marketing ploys that I do think cross the line of good taste.
I also am loath to provide any type of recognition to anyone who I do think has crossed the line. And in my opinion, one California Web hosting company has gone too far.
I’m not going to use the company’s name. After all, what they want is their name in print. I’m not going to provide them with that satisfaction, but I am going to go on record with my belief that what they’ve done in the name of “getting their name out there” is wrong.
The company issued two news releases last week announcing that it had purchased the right to advertise on the back of a Maine man’s head and was the winning bidder to sponsor the birth of child in St. Louis.
Both came as the result of eBay auctions. And while I’ve never used the on-line trading site, I can guarantee you that now I never will. Brokering inanimate objects is one thing, brokering people as advertising or marketing commodities reduces mankind to a least common denominator that I don’t want to even consider.
The man in Maine got his head tattooed with the company’s logo. He claims he came up with the idea to support his growing family. I doubt the $5,000 he’s receiving from the company is going to make that much of a difference for his three children over the long haul.
Maybe I have too big of an ego, or maybe I’m way too self-absorbed, but five grand isn’t anywhere near enough for me to even consider defacing my body for someone else’s benefit. And there’s no way – if I had kids – that I’d subject them to the snipping and to the barbs that will surely come their way because their father is a “walking, talking billboard.”
The company, of course, is overjoyed. The CEO gushed in the news release that “we love inventive ideas … and we think (this) gives us a great way to demonstrate our love of fresh ideas. We also think this represents the ultimate in company loyalty!”
What it represents is a lack of feeling and compassion, and a complete lack of class.
But I feel even sorrier for the child whose birth will forever be remembered as a publicity stunt. And I am repulsed that the medical staff involved has forgotten what it means to be health care professionals and has agreed to wear T-shirts and hats displaying the company’s name during the delivery.
Of course, who can blame them since the mother has agreed to get a temporary tattoo of the company’s logo. (I called the company to ask how much they were paying to “sponsor” the birth. The PR contact said she didn’t know, but would find out for me. I called the next day and got her voice-mail and left a message. She never did call me back. Apparently she’s never read one of my columns about how not to upset an editor.)
The delivery will be videotaped and “choice segments” will be available online – because there is no doubt that people will log on to watch, because we’ve become a voyeuristic society. My hat goes off to the creators of reality TV.
I can only hope that there is some decency left in the state of Missouri, and that someone in social services will intervene. I also hope that the medical community voices its outrage and that the doctors and nurses involved face some form of disciplinary action.
Have we humans as a species devolved to the point that we will do anything for money? Are we so obsessed with having our 15 minutes of fame that we’ll subject ourselves to any form of humiliation? Has business become more about stunts and less about substance? Do we really believe that we should be allowed to do whatever we want just because we can?
Perhaps I’m just too conservative. Maybe I’m just not in touch with the reality of the 21st century. It’s more likely that I was simply fortunate enough to have been raised in a household where values and personal responsibility were important, where I learned that actions and decisions have consequences and that quite often you’re not the only one who has to live with those consequences.
I firmly believe in personal freedom. But I also believe that people shouldn’t be exploited because they lack common sense and because someone or some company has too much disposable cash.
The most difficult thing to do is to protect someone from himself. I just wish there weren’t people and businesses out there chomping at the bit to take advantage of those folks who can’t.
Mike Boyd is editor of the Colorado Springs Business Journal. He can be reached at mike.boyd@csbj.com or 329-5206.