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Columnists

Surfers' paradise

Dixe Wills

dixe.jpg

Last month, a little known company called 'Coca-Cola' took a break from attempting to increase awareness of its eponymous product (a brown fizzy liquid that conveys upon the imbiber not only a feeling of joy that extends far beyond the merely ecstatic, but also imbues that particular sense of purpose and fulfilment which can be obtained solely by surrounding oneself with a multitude of friends who pause from laughing and smiling only in order to sip, quaff or guzzle more 'Coke') to mount a selfless campaign intended to better the lot of humankind. The fledgling company's plan was to increase the quantity of actual real happiness in the world by encouraging members of the public to counter any negative tweets they might stumble across with a positive response coupled with the hashtag 'MakeItHappy'. A bot set up by Coca-Cola would, in turn, transmogrify these uplifting messages into shapes that would both delight and enchant. The words might assume the shape of a mirthful banana, a cheery little mouse or (and this is the image I always conjure up when, say, a close relative has died and I'm in need of a little fillip) a chicken drumstick behatted in the manner of a cowboy. The media website Gawker, seizing an opportunity to turn this wholly altruistic gesture into an embarrassing faux pas, began tweeting, sentence by sentence, an English translation of the introduction to Mein Kampf, each time with the MakeItHappy hashtag. The mismatch between the late and largely unlamented F├╝hrer's musings and the chirpy shapes into which they had been transmuted caused Coca-Cola to suspend the campaign. This invokes an interesting question - one with which you can imagine the Pharisees testing Jesus - who is in the wrong here: the global corporation or the online news organ? The former is not renowned for its tenacious holding of scruples. But it did at least turn its considerable advertising budget (the campaign was launched during the Super Bowl, a consumer event of some consequence in the US) to some apparent good. All the latter did was snipe from the sidelines and bring to a swift halt any jollifying benefits the campaign might have bestowed upon the benighted internet. Of course, coming from a company with such a voracious appetite for expanding its market share, it's almost impossible to imagine that this was anything other than a clever marketing ploy. Thus Gawker and I are united in our cynicism about Coca-Cola's apparent cynicism. It's all depressingly dark. Coincidentally, the week before, the Archbishop of Canterbury had pleaded in a blog (bit.ly/1zzUF56) for Christians to play nicely on social media. Whether this would lead to the CoE's account transforming tweets into edifying images of fonts, wafers and organ restoration fund thermometers is as yet unclear.