Filed under: Africa, China, Happiness, Human Rights, LGBT | Tags: Africa, China, David Kato, Gay, Gay RIghts, Human Rights, LGBT, trade, Uganda
Just back from Uganda. Somewhere over the Sahara desert en route to Kampala, I had the chance to read a bunch of briefings and media reports. Unsurprisingly one thing jumps out: China.
There’s a really clear Western take on China’s involvement in Africa: the Chinese are plunderers, putting Africans in the role of hapless victims – or corrupt accomplices. As one academic paper puts it,
The continent is understood as the rightful backyard of Europe, and Chinese attempts to deal with its nations are considered surreptitious and dishonest.
Of course Chinese money has flooded into Africa, chasing natural resources – but it isn’t just China. In fact, the Chinese share of Africa’s exports has remained pretty steady over recent years, as other fast-growing countries like Brazil, Turkey and India compete for their share. It’s just that China gets the headlines.
On balance, all this looks good for Africa: trade capital, infrastructure investment, skills and expertise, etc. One area looks worrysome: this new class of trade partners doesn’t hesitate in getting stuck in to countries with dodgy governments like Zimbabwe.
This summer Hillary Clinton gave a speech in Senegal, infuriating the Chinese by advocating trade partnerships with the United States, because
[The US] will stand up for democracy and universal human rights, even when it might be easier or more profitable to look the other way… Not every partner makes this choice, but we do and will.
We’ll miss you Hillary. But Beijing won’t: China’s official news agency Xinhua accused her of taking “cheap shots”.
Linking trade (and aid) to human rights is especially important for a place like Uganda, which has a recent record of populist political hate campaigns against gay people.
Here’s some of the headlines from Red Pepper and Rolling Stone:
And below is a picture of David Kato (source), a gay rights activist murdered in 2011 after appearing on Rolling Stone’s hit list. How do we get Uganda’s leaders to realize that the most open, tolerant and inclusive countries are also the happiest? And that the most homophobic are also the most miserable? I should have got a t-shirt printed – How To Be Happy: Hug A Homo.
Filed under: Climate Change, Economics, Ethical Consumerism, Happiness, Innovation, Mother, Public Opinion, Uncategorized | Tags: Advertising, Climate Change, Environment, Happiness, health, Innovation, Mother, New Economics Foundation, Public Opinion
Yesterday Nic Marks from the New Economics Foundation came in to Mother and talked to the strategists. Nic works on well-being and how to measure it, and he started by telling us that he thought people like us – advertising types – fuel the false belief that stuff can make us happy. In fact, Nic wasn’t initially at all keen to come and talk to us – a reminder that to many people, we’re the problem.
I was digging around on their website and found this, in a report called A Bit Rich, which calculates the “Social Return On Investment” of different jobs:
The impact of the [advertising] industry has always been a point of controversy. It encourages high consumer spending and indebtedness. It can create insatiable aspirations, fuelling feelings of dissatisfaction, inadequacy and stress. In our economic model we estimate the share of social and environmental damage caused by overconsumption that is attributable to advertising. For a salary of between £50,000 and £12 million, top advertising executives destroy £11 of value for every pound in value they generate.
Reminds me of the famous Bill Hicks line, “by the way, if anyone here tonight is in advertising or marketing… kill yourselves. Just a little thought”. In fact, I just watched it again. It’s really old now, but great to see again:
Yeah, well. It’s not like we sell arms to children or anything. Of course there’s nothing intrinsically evil about marketing, but the collective indifference of our industry is impressive. Still, I’m convinced this is changing for the better. A few people yesterday pointed out NEF’s slogan, “Economics As If People and the Planet Mattered” – something to think about for us.
So there was a bit of a cultural tension going on. Despite this (or maybe because of it), it was a great talk. Plenty of good nerdy discussion on indices, measurement, systems theory, psychology – finishing with the beautifully practical Five Ways To Wellbeing: Connect, Be Active (physically), Take Notice (smelling coffee, etc), Keep Learning, and Give (compassion, Dalai Lama style). If this all sounds a bit “self-help”, there’s some solid evidence behind this stuff. And some good heart too. It would be nice to figure out some ways we can do some projects with these guys.
And if you’re interested, here’s the full presentation:
Filed under: Advertising, Coca-Cola, Corporate Citizenship, Happiness, Pepsi, Youth | Tags: Advertising, charity, Coca-Cola, Corporate Citizenship, Happiness, Pepsi
No it’s not a flashback to the Obama election – it’s Pepsi’s Refresh Everything campaign. Instead of a big-bucks 30 second Superbowl spot this year, Pepsi decided to give $1.3 million to good causes, allowing consumers to vote on who should get what. The results are announced on March 1st.
Pepsi follows the example of TripAdvisor: in 2008, more than a million people voted on how they should give away $1 million in their More Than Footprints campaign.
It’s a big move for a brand like Pepsi – very different from the usual big budget Britney ad. It could be the latest sign of a shift in society’s attitudes around advertising. The think-tank Compass published a report this week called The Advertising Effect, the latest to argue that advertising fuels our voracious consumerism – which doesn’t really make us happy.
It’s the old AdBuster’s thought, but it’s gaining academic weight: the report pulls together Dr. David Myer’s studies on happiness, as well as work by Prof. Richard Layard and of course Oliver James. There’s also interesting input from organizations such as The Children’s Society:
One factor that may be leading to rising mental health problems is the increasing degree to which children and young people are preoccupied with possessions; the latest in fashionable clothes and electronic equipment… Evidence both from the United States and from the UK suggests that those most influenced by commercial pressures also show higher rates of mental health problems.
Against this background, Pepsi’s decision to ditch Superbowl looks progressive – let’s hope the new approach delivers the sales volumes. It challenges all of us to find positive ways to drive sales for our clients. Interesting that all this coincides with some very encouraging comments by PepsiCo’s Chairman and CEO Indra Nooyi talking to the FT about the company’s “license from society”:
“We’re constantly watching the changing societal trends and looking at the interplay between corporations and societies… [in] Davos, both this year and last, everybody is talking about the new rules of capitalism, [which] are, don’t just think about the company within the four walls of the company, think about your obligations to society.”
The Compass report starts from a marketing-is-evil presumption. They want to ban lots of advertising. That’s just a lack of imagination. The answer isn’t no advertising, but good advertising. The real challenge is to find positive ways to engage consumers, which enhances their lives and builds business for our clients.
Filed under: Advertising, Education, Happiness, LGBT, Public Opinion, Youth | Tags: Advertising, Happiness, LGBT, Public Opinion, stonewall, Youth
Peace, love, goodwill to everyone – fine words at the end of a year which saw a surge in support for the BNP and a rise in homophobic attacks. It’s been a year of growing intolerance in the UK. Interesting then, digging around in the World Values Survey, to see that the world’s most tolerance societies are also the happiest.
It confirms some of our favourite country stereotypes: exuberant Latin American countries which embrace diversity, contrasted with former communist countries of eastern Europe – grim and intolerant. I pulled the data for people who said they were “very happy” and ran it alongside people who said that “homosexuality is never justifiable”. Here’s the results:
It’s all strangely affirming. The more tolerant countries – Sweden, Spain, Canada, Thailand – are the most happy. The more homophobic places – Poland, Ukraine, Russia – are more miserable. It’s a global truth: 92,000 people took the survey across the world, and among those who said that homosexuality is never justifiable, 25% said they were very happy; among those who said it was always justifiable, 31% were very happy. Stop the press: tolerant people are more happy.
Of course most of us knew this already: the question is, how do we tell the rest of them? Peace, love and goodwill are good for the soul – a difficult message to convey to someone struggling in harsh economic conditions, whether in Russia’s industrial wastelands or in Bradford. But it’s an important idealistic message: be happy, love your neighbour.
Stonewall’s campaign against homophobic bullying is a good start. “Some people are gay. Get over it” – in other words, the problem’s yours, deal with it. The campaign was developed by kids in schools, and has been a successful conversation starter. It’s a bold, challenging message – but what’s the emotional benefit? What’s in it for the bullies? We need a positive message as well, something to aspire to.
It will be interesting to see where Stonewall takes the campaign next. The World Values Survey shows that a quarter of Britons think homosexuality is “never justifiable”. This is less than the US (32%) and the world average (56%) – but still, 1 in 4 people is still a huge amount, and recent events suggest it’s on the increase. There’s clearly work for Stonewall to do.
NB. the last World Values Survey was completed in 2007. It’s is being repeated in 2010.