By Tarun Chandy
The Power of Irrelevance
This morning, I finally decided that I’d procrastinated long enough and it was time to write my very first SCAB. The tale of my strategic and elaborate plan to take down a billion dollar corporation. Now, I don’t want to focus on the fact that the company abruptly went private, and thwarted any attempt I might have had on their stock values. And I am keeping myself from admitting defeat just yet, because I suppose I’m still hoping that my effort alone might be deemed worthy of a place on the shortlist. Instead, being the relentless optimist that I am, I want to share an important lesson I learnt from the horrible people at Vedanta PLC, whom I selected as my formidable adversaries.
But first, I’d like to take a step back and discuss what I believe is the purpose of advertising, or at least one way of considering it. When I look around at a world increasingly dominated by symbolic representations, media perpetuations and capitalist manifestations, I see advertising as the source of all relevance. In whatever form it might take, advertising brings companies, products and ideas into focus and tells the world that, for whatever reason, they are worthy of our attention. But as a result of the copious amounts of information being shoved down our throats from every direction, the quest to establish relevance has turned into a battle.
We bear witness to this struggle for increased visibility on a daily basis, be it influencers fighting for followers or companies feeding off our data. So, it’s hard to imagine that anyone could be benefitting from abstaining from the fight entirely. Yet, while failing to draw attention to the atrocities Vedanta had committed, this is exactly what I discovered. What I now like to call, The Power of Irrelevance.
I spent several weeks trying to publicize a long list of crimes that the company was responsible for, including the deaths of several people and the spread of fatal diseases, and yet the more I tried, the more I got the impression that no one seemed to care. The media didn’t want to publish it and when I put it out myself, it didn’t spark what I believed to be the appropriate level of outrage. I wondered why. Surely if Nike was killing it’s workers or McDonalds was spreading cancer, people would be taking notice.
It then dawned on me that the average person had no idea who Vedanta were, and as long as they maintained that irrelevance, they were largely free to operate as they pleased. By avoiding the media presence that most organizations crave, they had made themselves invisible, and it would take more than an article or two to break that spell.
As advertisers, every time we shine a spotlight on one thing, we leave something else in the darkness. For most companies, this loss of attention means declining demand and eventual bankruptcy. But it is within this darkness that the real monsters thrive, free from condemnation and strengthened by the power of irrelevance.