Thursday, January 29, 2009

Fiat and Authenticity

Earlier this week I happened upon an interesting Wall Street Journal article* about a controversial Fiat ad that publicizes the plight of activist and 1991 Nobel Peace Prize winner  Aung San Suu Kyi who is under house arrest in her country of Myanmar. 

In light of our related class discussion, I thought this was a good example of the importance of maintaining authenticity as we craft and share our compelling stories.

Footage for the Fiat commerical was shot at the Nine World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureats and features four winners of the Nobel Peace Prize as they arrive at the confernce in Fiat Lancia cars . In the final frames of the ad a Lancia arrives and the passenger door opens to reveal an empty seat - an image meant as a metaphor for Suu Kyi's imprisonment - followed by an image of Suu Kyi and the words: "Lancia [Fiat] supports Aung San Suu Kye. Free now." 

So at this point you might be thinking that's pretty powerful and wondering "what's the controversy?" Well, besides Fiat not gaining permission from Suu Kyi to include her in the ad (Fiat claims it was impossible given her imprisonment), some feel that because Fiat is not providing any direct help to Suu Kyi (despite reaping enormous returns due to its virility) they are exploiting her for their gain. The article explains: 

"Ethics experts are split over the propriety of the campaign. Michael Boylan, a philosphy professor at Marymount University in Virginia who co-wrote, "AdveritsingEthics," says the spot is "unethical and classless" because Fiat isn't offering direct help to Ms. Suu Kyi. Tony Pigott, a director of Ethos JWT, a division of WPP's JWT ad agency specializing in social-issue ads, says the add is well made and unobjectionable."

What do you think?

- Shal

*This links to an excerpt only. I'll bring a hardcopy to class.


  1. Wow - that is incredibly interesting. As someone who probably fits the profile of the privacy group (social, but concerned about privacy online), I wonder how our pictures are - or are not- legally used. For example, once you post a picture on Facebook it is technically their property . . .do we really know how they are or are not allowed to use it?! (I would seriously like to know if anyone knows about these things.)

  2. Ashley, what an amazing question! It would be so interesting to bring this up in class. I wish I would have read this posting prior to today's Facebook Case - we could have asked Matt. I think this is an intriguing enough question to warrant an email :).