Friday, August 1, 2014

Robi's Eid For Street Children: A Noble Tale of Shame

Photo: Mehedi Haque
In Bangladesh, it has become very easy to identify street children now, thanks to a blighted campaign by telecom giant Robi. Cellular phone operator Robi distributed Clothes as Eid gifts among underprivileged children in the capital as part of its Ramadan campaign, reports BSS. The distribution was conducted in cooperation with Volunteers for Bangladesh (VBD), a youth wing of JAAGO Foundation, said a Robi release. Befitting with the theme of the campaign "In this Eid, who will you make smile?", the clothes distribution program was set to bring ‘smiles’ to thousands of under privileged children across the country. The campaign which began on 1st July, enabled Robi subscribers who recharged BDT 58 to be a part of this ‘noble’ endeavor.

Only it wasn’t noble.

Marketing a scheme of Deception:

The ad campaign which had many praising Robi featured an initiative by the telecom company to gift homeless children new clothes on the occasion of Eid in the event that Robi users made a recharge of Tk 58. Millions were spent in setting up these advertisements on TV, newspapers, billboards, radio, streets, shop windows and other media.

Few questioned the ethics behind this, namely
a) the marketing of street children as objects generating interest in a product
b) and the advertisements portraying this as an initiative by Robi, when it is actually just a dollop from the 
c) revenue generated from increased subscription.

Robi mislead many by keeping in fine print the fact that one dress would be given from EVERY 100 instances of recharge of Tk 58, i.e, for every Tk 5800. 
But even more shameful was what transpired in the end.

When the street children were given their ‘gifts’, it was found that the Eid gift showcased in the advertisement and the real clothes given looked far far different. The advertisement showed a normal unblemished Punjabi, the traditional Eid dress in Bangladesh. What children received was a red Punjabi with white collars (girls received a similar red dress) and most IMPORTANTLY, the caption/logo of Robi BOLDLY AND PROMINENTLY EMBLAZONED on to their dress!!!

In other words, they received an ugly looking, horridly ad-marked piece of cloth, designed in poor taste and mean mindedness. The street children were made to look like utterly helpless living breathings ads for Robi. The real face of this cheap disgusting PR cum advertisement campaign by Robi was exposed when the children were photographed on the same stage as the ad billboards, which showed smiling street children wearing the same dress, only without the disgusting logo. Hypocrisy showed its ugly face when the media was paid to incessantly praise Robi and hail this as a ‘wonderful innovative initiative’.

Yes, Robi could have paid for this from their own pockets, looking at the ungainly exposure of its logo on the dresses. Yes, Robi could have behaved ethically by not making such a fuss about nothing and just buying these unfortunate street children these very clothes for Eid. Yes, Robi could have carried out this initiative without deceiving their users as to the nature of their actions as discussed above.

No they didn’t.

Thanks to Robi, it has become excruciatingly easy to identify poor helpless street children now.     

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