12 June 2007

DOWn Chemical

Yesterday upon arriving home from work I found the July '07 issue of National Geographic Magazine waiting for me. I'm always excited to flip through and see if there is a new feature map included. At first glance this issue seemed to deliver a new map, but upon closer inspection my excitement turned to disgust.

The map included was not a product of National Geographic but a thinly disguised attempt at an advertisement for DOW Chemical. The map was an accompaniment to a two page four-color ad for a company sponsored 20 person relay race around the world to raise awareness of the millions of people without access to clean water.

The advertisement does state some interesting facts not normally put forth by a multi-national company:

–One billion people have no access to safe, clean water.
–Only one percent of the Earth's water is drinkable.
–By 2025 more than three billion people will live in countries with water issues.
–More than 2.2 million people die each year from diseases associated with poor water.

These mind numbing statistics are not what turned my stomach, it was the little blurb in the lower corner of the map (circled in yellow). Here it is an enlargement:

As you can see the total funding for DOW Chemical's "Journey to Save Lives" is $1,000,000. This is what got to me. First, the cool million represents %0.002 of 2006 revenue. Second, they have provided clean water for just %0.002 of the people in need. Isn't it interesting that at this rate the revenue from just one year from just one company could solve the World's water shortage? The third thing is what really got me. The cost the 2-page spread and a 20x30 inch glued in poster runs about $750,000*. That's right, DOW Chemical spent about 75% of the amount used to save lives to tell you that they saved lives.

If they had only spent 50% on the ad I might have been persuaded to forget about Agent Orange, napalm, dioxin contamination, exploding breast implants, selling nerve agent as a "safe" household chemical, or the disaster in Bhopal India^.

*This is an estimate based on the cost of four full page ads (the cost of a poster insert is not provided by the National Geographic Advertising Rate Sheet)

^The Bhopal Disaster occurred at a facility owned by Union Carbide in 1984. In 1999 Union Carbide became a wholly owned subsidiary of DOW Chemical. The legal minds at DOW consider all claims for the 22,000 deaths settled and the company bears no responsibility for the ongoing contamination.

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