Evil Microsoft Butterfly

closePlease note: This post was published over a year ago, so please be aware that its content may not be quite so accurate anymore. Also, the format of the site has changed since it was published, so please excuse any formatting issues.

I have a huge problem with one of those MSN ads that feature the big, stupid butterfly. The one I’m talking about is the one where the mom and her two children are walking down the street and the butterfly is running ahead and “protecting” the children. In case you haven’t seen it, here’s a brief run-down of what happens:

The butterfly turns down “offensive” music.

The butterfly covers up a “lewd” image.

The butterfly knocks over a card game of “ill-repute.”

The commercial touts the butterfly as a hero for “protecting” the children from the ills of society. While this may be true, the butterfly is actually doing a significant amount of damage to these poor children. In shielding them from the world, the butterfly is disillusioning the kids. They will grow up thinking the world is something it’s not. When the time comes for the children to come out from under the wing of the over-protective butterfly, they will find themselves lost in a world of cheating, lying, sex, drugs, et cetera. The butterfly will not be able to hide the truth from these kids forever, and prolonging their discovery of the facts of life will only serve to embarrass them and incapacitate them mentally; much to the chagrin of their parents.

Moreover, the butterfly shows absolutely no respect for the people on the street. In turning off the music, he is violating the personal rights of the people listening to that music. In covering the posters of bikini-clad woman, he stifles the creator’s freedom of expression. In knocking over the card game (which appears to be three card monte or one similar), he violates the rights of the people playing the game as well as destroys the dealer’s private property. The butterfly acts with a rife disregard for anyone else’s freedom.

Another set of ads that bother me (for similar reasons) are the Quaker Oatmeal spots. In these ads, two large men in suits visit various people’s houses and take their food. The Quaker company will obviously be using this food to flavor their oatmeal and turn a profit. The people from which the food is taken are offered no reward for their “generosity,” other than a small card that says “Thank you.”

Let’s examine this on its most basic level. Two men in suits take food from people and they can’t say no. The stolen food is then used for profit. The Quaker company has a well known and easily recognizable (perhaps even notorious) figurehead. Can we say mafia? I’m not pointing any fingers, but the spots do have a certain mob-esque feel to them. At any rate, representatives from the Quaker Company are stealing innocent peoples’ food.

As my friend Kris puts it, “the populous is an oyster for Corporate America to shuck and devour. The populous’ money acts as an aphrodisiac for Corporate America. The only thing we have to call our own are our guts, our fruits of labor. And that’s what Corporate America takes; our guts. Capitalism: the spoon by which our innards are removed; soul and all.” That’s wonderful Kris. Now if you’ll just step down off the soap-box, it’s time for your medication.

Seriously, though, it’s amazing what some companies deem acceptable for their image. It’s as though they don’t think about these things. Now, don’t get me wrong, I completely understand the point of both of the ad campaigns. In fact, I like a couple of the MSN ads. My point is simply that companies need to seriously think about all the possible interpretations of the messages they broadcast.

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