Thursday, September 22, 2011

Gotomeeting's TV Ad: Slacktivism In Action

I've been Googling and Googling and can't find any reference to the "Kenyan Water Project" showcased on a recent commercial for the web-conferencing company Gotomeeting. I guess it was all made up for the commercial. (Gotomeeting, if you are reading this, and the commercial was actually based on something real, not just a hypothetical use of your services, please let me know). I can't quite put my finger on why it's so offensive to me that this commercial for Gotomeeting would use a fictional charity to sell itself. Here's the ad:

If it had been a fictional clothing company, or fictional donut shop, that would be par for the course. The fictional depiction of a use of one's goods or services has been a staple of advertising from time immemorial. But this is different. Perhaps it offends me so because it is a prime example of "slacktivism". Wikipedia defines slacktivism as 
"a portmanteau formed out of the words slacker and activism. The word is usually considered a pejorative term that describes 'feel-good' measures, in support of an issue or social cause, that have little or no practical effect other than to make the person doing it feel satisfaction. The acts tend to require minimal personal effort from the slacktivist." 
But this isn't just slacktivism. It is worse. This is slacktivism used to make money. This commercial is used to associate the company, Gotomeeting with fictional well-intentioned folks bringing fictional clean water to fictional Kenyan villagers, which in turn elevates the public's view of Gotomeeting, bringing the company not-fictional money.
So does the fact that this commercial showcases the non-existent "Kenyan Water Project" promote the clean water cause? Not at all. If anything, this feel-good commercial harms the real cause it hijacks, because the worst part of slacktivism is that it breeds complacency. Because who needs to start a real charity when there's a fictional one out there in TV land doing fictional good?


  1. I couldn't agree more, this commercial has rubbed me the wrong way every time it comes on. To invent a charity (it's pretty clear it's invented) your product is benefitting is both sick and wrong.

  2. Glad to hear there's someone out there who feels the same way.

  3. This commercial is awful - if GotoMeeting is not funding this very real charity at a significant level they need to be called out.

  4. I agree, it's pretty awful. It's a shameless exploitation of humanitarian feelings. There seems to be an organization out there called "Kenya Water Project" but there's no documentation I can find on the web about the "Kenyan (with an n) Water Project" as shown here.

  5. Completely agree as well. Its exploitive on several levels. First it portrays a fictional organization when there are thousands worldwide that are worthy of having their profile raised through a spot like this.

    Secondly I feel it's borderline racist due to the project hierarchy it portrays. A white U.S. slacktivist male kid and euro male geotechnologist are driving the project remotely directing an Asian woman on the ground who in turn is "helping" Africans whom one would have to infer are unable to help themselves. Really? Really?

    Finally, it totally mis-represents the true level of effort required to analyze a prospective well site, coordinate its design, exeucte its digging or drilling. You'd think from the commercial that all you have to do is open your laptop, logon to Go to Meeting with all your ridiculously attractive global friends, chat for 10 seconds and Voila! clean water for the natives gushes from a spigot. Give me a break. The spot is total crap and creeps me out everytime it airs.

  6. Seriously, thank you. Good point not only is it exploitative, but it makes building adequate water infrastructure look sooooo easy.

  7. As a Jewish-American and a Black civil rights activist I was deeply offended by the ignorance and racism in this commercial.

  8. I was also appalled by this commercial having found it it is all apparently made up. It is exploitive in the worst sense. There is a real "African Water Projected", perhaps that's where they go this ill-conveived idea.

    Charter Cable meanwhile seems to be creating commercials with phony veterans calling home long distance from Iraq to fictitious happy families now using Charter internet/telephone service - exploitation of veterans and their families.

  9. Yeah. Some things are fine to fictionalize in the name of advertising, others are pushing it.

  10. so a running hose is an inspiration to a guy on a water project? a water balloon? oh, and a fish tank. idiotic. love the non-u.s. central euro vibe of the leader. so believable...

    1. Yes, if a hose or water balloon is your inspiration, you're probably not a real engineer, and probably not helping the people of Kenya.