Saturday, October 2, 2010

Thank you for your World Vision-less

I was watching American Idol last night, yes, I know…I noticed they blurred the Coca Cola cups sitting on the judge’s table. This is presumably because Coca Cola didn’t pay for an advertisement. It reminded of me the BBC’s induction week where they took us thru the history of the BBC and during the week, they gave a talk about the lasting power of images, even when you are exposed to them for few seconds. The speaker showed a BBC clip with a blurred image of another popular brand and explained why the image was blurred. Apparently, there are studies made about how images we see daily influence our choices or ideas subconsciously. I was intrigued by this and from then on I walked around London paying attention to the number of images I was exposed to and tried to figure out how they might influence my choices as a consumer and my thoughts.

If the BBC would go out of their way to control an image a viewer might be exposed to for just few seconds, how about the power a billboard has? One particular photo campaign that bothered me a lot was a “World Vision” poster at the time plastered all over London bus stops. It had life-size picture of a desperate-looking black child with flies on his face and a pot belly. And the pathetic line that accompanied the disturbing picture was something sadder even, “with your help we can combat poverty”! I found it incredibly offensive. Anyone remembers those horrid old Tin Tin cartoons with darkened faces of white cartoons and bright red lipstick? It reminded me of that.

These kinds of degrading images of Africa and Africans have partly contributed to my decision to leave Europe, together with the weather, potatos and the London Underground.


  1. Maimuna, I was reading about the factors that influence consumer behavior just today, it's true perception of the senses do influence our choices subconciously, which is why advertisers use unique and memorable ads to have us in their gip. U remember the African child because the ad was just that resonating and that was the whole point. Media and communication is a fascinating field!

  2. Fatuma, the language used by the media and advertisers is called Semiotics - the language of signs - or the language to decode an image. This was the first lesson I had in Uni, and the recommended reading for this was No Logo by Naomi Klein - a brilliant book. This language links signs in order to create meaning that appeals to our subconscious. The poster or logo doesn't have to spell out the message, it only creates a sign with few words and then a message coming out. Its a very fascinating subject....

    I've to watch George Ayittey on TED (Cheetah & Hippos) to remind myself that these poster on the tube do not represent my continent. I notice them everyday.

    We are going to join soon the cheetah generation who will change Afrika, we've learned these it will be a matter of time before the role reverses.