Ram, BitCoen and the Hypocrisy of Internet-Age Advertising
Issue   |   Tue, 02/20/2018 - 22:33

Like most Super Bowl viewers, I saw the Ram truck ad featuring a Martin Luther King Jr. speech, but I did not think much of it at the time. Going on Twitter the next day, though, I realized what should have been obvious if I had actually been paying attention — that it was a wildly hypocritical ad.

The commercial uses excerpts from King’s speech “Drum Major Instinct,” in which he decried capitalist mentalities of materialism. He specifically criticizes the thought that “I got to drive this car because it’s something about this car that makes my car a little better than my neighbor’s car.”

On top of that, the commercial featured military symbolism, linking King’s idea of service to serving in the military. Of course, if anything remains of King’s legacy and ideals that has not been whitewashed over the past half century, it is his stern opposition to imperialism and the military-industrial complex.

The hypocrisy of this ad and the controversy surrounding it urged me to take a more critical view of advertising in general.
Last week an ad for “BitCoen” — a new cryptocurrency which complies with Jewish law — popped up as sponsored content in my Facebook feed.

The advertisement explains, among other things, that BitCoen will end the difficulties of making charitable donations to organizations within Israel and that 10 percent of the total BitCoens produced will be donated to Jewish organizations as charity. The advertisement also depicts BitCoens flying towards a crowd made up of both white people wearing kippahs and Arabic people of color, a scene supposed to represent BitCoen’s rewards system.

It seemed interesting to me that the ad used such multicultural advertising techniques when the actual product is made for Jews, by Jews.

The company itself is overseen by BitCoen’s “council of six,” which is composed of well-respected members of the Israeli Jewish community. Despite its advertising targeted towards Jewish users, Angelika Sheshunova, COO of BitCoen, has said that there is no way to insure that only members of the Jewish community use BitCoen. However, she did note to “The Register” that the product’s “features are most appealing to members of the Jewish community.”

Given that one of the key advantages of using BitCoen is its anonymity, it seems to me that it will become a favored method for foreigners, especially those who would prefer to remain anonymous, to donate money to settlement communities in the West Bank, which are condemned under U.N. resolution 2334 as a “flagrant violation of international law.”

Additionally, despite its claim of “typically responding within hours,” BitCoen read and did not respond to my message asking which specific Israeli organizations it planned to donate the 10 percent of BitCoens to.

Of course, it may be the case that BitCoen will never be used to donate to settlements, and, despite not responding to my query, BitCoen is actually donating to Israeli charitable organizations. However, the obscurity surrounding the currency and its uses should raise red flags.

Finally, given the fact that the product was created by and for Jews, it seems interesting to me that the company featured Arab BitCoen users in their ad. Just like the Ram ad, BitCoen’s advertising technique mixes conflicting aims and messages, using multicultural images designed to appeal to a liberal audience.

Among my Jewish friends, I was not the only one who noticed this advertisement cropping up in their social media feed, and I suppose that BitCoen targets its advertising towards young Jews.

However, as Ram reminded us, advertisements can often be pernicious things, and we need to be careful to understand how a products messaging may be hypocritical, or even in conflict with the mission of the product itself.

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