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British Airways: Not So Beautiful Harmony

Posted by Rosepixie on March 28, 2010

This is an ad for British Airways about fashion week in Mumbai.

So, the moment where I decided I needed to point out this ad was when the voiceover (which sounded like a quote from an interview) said:

It’s the buildings, it’s the textiles.  I just think it has the most amazing pulse and this diverse sort of extreme where you’ve got haute couture happening on one side and you’ve got extreme poverty happening on the other side, and this all sort of lives in this beautiful sort of harmony.

Really?  That’s a “beautiful sort of harmony”?  Because I’m betting that if anyone had interviewed the poor, hungry little kids who were used to illustrate the poverty part of that equation they would have said something very different about the same situation.

The people who can fly from the UK to Mumbai for fashion week are not going to have to worry about extreme poverty, but that doesn’t mean that it’s ok to turn it into some cute tourist attraction for them.  Those kids aren’t set dressing for the big art shows that are haute couture runway shows (because realistically, haute couture is wearable art that few people actually wear and basically no one wears as it appears in runway shows).  Those kids are real, flesh and bone people who are really struggling with lives filled with not enough food or money.  How do you suppose they feel knowing that there are people flying from halfway around the world to look at art most of them will never buy and even fewer will ever wear just meters from where they stand starving?  And how do you think it feels to be treated as “cultural background” shots to make the city look more exotic to foreign travelers who will probably never give them a second thought?

Seriously British Airways, this is pretty callous.  I’m not saying that you need to drop everything and become a charitable institution that feeds and clothes the world’s population, but is it really so much to ask that you not exploit them?  Those are people, not trees or buildings or cultural landmarks.  People.  They deserve to be treated with respect, even when they don’t have any money.

And if you, as a company, don’t treat people with respect (in your ads or elsewhere), I, as a consumer, have little reason to respect you and, thus, no reason to use your service or product..  The impression your ads give is important.  Why is that such a difficult concept for so many companies to grasp?


One Response to “British Airways: Not So Beautiful Harmony”

  1. Eva said

    But can’t you see how these dark skinned savages are living in beautiful harmony with their, um, natural city habitat? The alluring and vibrant pulse of a simpler life as it has been for, uh, decades?

    Urg, I think I may have made myself throw up a little. In my mind a much better representation of this “harmony” was the 30 days episode where an American computer programmer tried to follow his job when it moved to India. He got a far less beautified picture of the wildly divergent social classes and their daily lives.

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