Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Socially Conscious Potato Chips

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As I pulled a bag of Cool Ranch Doritos from my kitchen cabinet, something caught my eye:

A picture of a young Latina and the word pedophile.

Perplexed, I read the rest of the text and learned that the woman pictured is 21 year old Cheryl Perera from Ontario, Canada, who posed as a decoy sex worker in Sri Lanka and lead police to the whereabouts of a notorious sex trafficker.

Doritos saluted her for her brave work and punctuated her story with a little black box that said "Do Something," with the URL

"Has Doritos created a philanthropy organization?" I wondered. Though noble, it seemed highly suspicious.

It turns out that Doritos is a sponsor of, an activist site for young lads and lassies. The home page offers suggestions for aspiring do-gooders ("Bake cookies and deliver them to elderly people in your neighborhood!") and links to causes and projects ranging from animal welfare to body image to environmental justice.

A banner at the top right of the page explains the Doritos tie-in. The scrolling text asks "Guess who's on the back of 50 MILLION Doritos brand chips?" Click on it, and you will learn that "Doritos recognizes those who do something:"

Thought DORITOS brand just made chips? No way. The DORITOS team believes 100% in the power of young people to speak out and change the world. Starting this summer, they are using their bags to celebrate amazing young world changers and show that people like you can do something too. Check out their projects here.

Even if you're rich and famous, you can't buy your way onto one of these bags. Are YOU all that and a bag of chips? Find out what inspires you and do something now. You could be next...

So, getting your picture and story on 50 million bags of Doritos is a reward for doing good things.

This seems ripe for snarky criticism -- the involvement of Doritos (and Pepsi, and Jet Blue, and Channel One) reeks of corporate philanthropy, a calculated PR move to improve public opinion (and therefore consumption) of the company's product. But frankly, I think that in this world of me me me it's important to provide young people with any incentive to be compassionate. Even if it involves the consumption of Doritios.

So what came first -- the money, or the philanthropy? Does it matter? If a corporation's greed puts compassion out on the marketplace in a highly visible way, do the ends justify the means?

I actually took a class once that asked this very question. And it was like a dog chasing its tail for 14 straight weeks.

As Garth would say: "It's like people only do things because they get paid . . . and that's just really sad."

But hey, whatever works.


Carrie said...

I feel like posing as a sex worker in Sri Lanka is kind of a dangerous example, Doritos. I once at a whole bag of you with Dave Sheski. You were delicious.

Drew said...

I want Doritos now.

Anonymous said...

You know, this story kind of goes along with the "Dateline: To Catch a Predator: With Chris Hansen" causes Texas prosecutor to shoot himself in the head after a) he does not show up to the rendevous with the 13 year old in the park and b) they take the fight to his house, and he sees them coming" story that I just told you the other day.

Mel said...

Oh yes, I was thinking of you when I wrote it.