Cause-related marketing, they call it. Linking purchases of a branded product or service to help for a worthy cause: computers for schools, say, or product (RED). The idea being that merely by buying brand X instead of brand Y, consumers can help other people. Sounds great, doesn’t it?
Ariel is supporting the Children’s Safe Drinking Water Programme and Five & Alive in giving water to developing countries. With your help Ariel will provide clean, safe drinking water to families who need it most by donating 10 litres to families in need for every special pack purchased.
Yet what the promotional campaign doesn’t mention is that P&G, Ariel’s parent company, has a commercial interest in clean water through Pur, another subsidiary which markets a patented water filtration system. Indeed Pur is the company behind the Children’s Safe Drinking Water campaign, the beneficiary of Ariel’s 10-litre promotion. So by buying Ariel, what consumers are really doing is shifting numbers on a spreadsheet from one part of P&G to another. P&G is turning a healthy profit on thirst.
It’s hard to know where to begin with the obscenity of the Ariel marketing campaign. The lack of the single most basic human need – fucking water – is being used to sell soap powder, and to serve the interests of a multinational corporation, while drawing a veil over the power relations responsible for denying people access to water in the first place. If people are really interested in fighting this problem, they can do it for free by finding out about it at activist sites like this and this. And maybe donate the money they would have spent on Ariel.