#155 Brand Exemptions
Submitted by Ricky
Twenty years ago Expat Aid Workers did stuff but didn’t talk much about it. Sure, if we provided equipment we put a little sticker on the computer monitor. Commodities came in boxes with slogans like “from the American People.” We put logos on publications outlining working group findings. But other than that — not much. Then someone decided that donors ought to tell people what they were doing. We put up posters with the donor’s logo at events. Then someone discovered those freestanding roll up banners. From there it went to a big banner over the podium.
Soon telling people that you were doing stuff was more important than actually doing stuff. There were debates over PowerPoint. Should the donor’s logo be only on the first and last slide, or should it be on EVERY slide, and what percentage of each slide’s area should be dedicated to the donor’s logo?
Then there were arguments between donors. Who should get top billing? “I know you’re putting in more money but we bring more field cred.”
So there you are at the big conference. There’s a free-standing roll up banner at each entrance, posters along the wall, a big banner over the podium. All of the participants have notebooks, pens and other swag with the donor’s logo. The lead presenter profusely thanks the donor and each PowerPoint slide has the proper acreage dedicated to the donor’s logo.
After the presentations comes the debate. Speaker after speaker, standing in front of the donor’s huge banner, denounces the local government for corruption and calls out one of the donor’s other projects for killing local enterprise by flooding the market with free stuff. Local TV is getting it all.
The conference is over. You wonder if your conference will make the local news. After all, the local TV station can’t afford to alienate the government and it hopes to get a grant from one of your donor’s other programs. But somehow the editor slips up. Your conference appears to all on the 7:30 news.
You reach for your mobile phone to shut it off. Too late. It chirps, you push the button and get a blast from Ms. Big at the donor’s office. There is a pause and you meekly say “But we asked for a branding exemption and the PR guy turned us down.” There is a longer pause.
“Next time call me first, you’ll get your damned exemption.”
EAWs like that.