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Archive for February, 2013

microsoft ad Totalement passioné

There are free daily newspapers that are handed out in the mornings at the entrances to the Métro in Paris or at any tram stop in Strasbourg. In fact, most major cities have this type of free morning paper (in France you get 24 hours and 20 minutes) – you are made to believe that there is real content (think front page of yahoo.com, your horoscope and a sudoku puzzle). Instead it’s a massive ad campaign trying to sell stuff you don’t need: a new Samsung smartphone, a memory foam bed, bright white teeth, etc. with news-y articles to keep you turning the pages.

It upsets me to see so much waste created – papers discarded 5 minutes after it being handed out, stashed between the seats of the metro, left in a stairwell to be kicked around for the rest of the day. I searched wikipedia to see how many of these papers get printed a day – and if the article is correct then there are 44 million of these papers being printed worldwide (and on average they are about 32 pages which means 1.5 BILLION pages are being printed 5 days per week ). That’s like 7 billion pages per week…a page for every person alive on planet earth!

The other day while taking the métro, the back page of one of these discarded papers caught my eye. It was an ad for Microsoft Office 365 featuring two adorable young boys (brothers? )riding in the seat back of a car. The younger boy is playing with a toy car on the head of the older boy. The older boy is engrossed  a tablet on his lap and doesn’t seem to mind. The text above their head says “Totalement passionné“, which can be literally translated as “Totally passionate”.

Passionate for what? The photo caught my eye because it looked like a sweet moment shared between these boys. However there is no moment being shared or communication exchange. As I looked more closely at the image, memories of car trips and family vacations and sharing the back seat with my younger brother came to mind. We would fight for the best seat (in the minivan) and always pack a bag with Mad Libs, a book, cassette tapes, snacks and a few toys. The car trips were sometimes contentious – 8 hours in a car is hard for any kid (adults, too). We weren’t allowed to take our Walkmans (yes, it was the 90s), but each of us was given our opportunity to listen to the music we wanted. As we got older we would make mix tapes – no matter how bad they were, we shared the experience. We would play games invented on the spot.

My initial reaction to the ad was positive , but as I reflected on what it means for those boys…I no longer felt the same way. It made me sad. Neither boy looks bored – but the only experience they are sharing is the car ride. Would they be willing to listen to the other’s music? At home do they watch movies together? What happens if one wants to watch Toy Story and the other wants Pirates? Does their dad offer one the TV and the other his laptop? Does their dad put in his headphones while he’s walking them to school? Is their mom constantly checking facebook on her iPhone while they boys are playing at the park?

It’s just something to think about.

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