If you didn't go to Yahoo on October 1: it was pink. They'd changed their site's
background to support the Breast Cancer Research Foundation in its "Global Landmarks
That's a public relations campaign trying to raise breast cancer awareness by casting pink lights on, say
the Empire State Building or the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Efforts by other groups have been
equally innovative. At least twopublic service advertisements encouraged regular self-examinations by reminding
women how much men enjoy gawking at their breasts.
It's all evidence of just how far both advocacy groups and corporations will go to
promote their cause. "As a significant and recognized world monument," explains a link on Yahoo.com, "Yahoo is honored to join
with The Estee Lauder Companies and the world's most prominent physical landmarks to
encourage people to think pink and raise awareness and funds for The Breast Cancer
Research Foundation." This also illustrates that there's a certain amount of
self-promotion along with these efforts. "Get informed," Yahoo urged Monday night--
though all ten of their links failed to lead anywhere. But they didn't
forget to include the text about how their home page is a significant and recognized
And Yahoo is also offering you the ability to add a Pink Ribbon theme
to your "My Yahoo!" page. Of course, since by definition the only person who sees your
"My Yahoo!" page is: you -- it's pretty hard to see how this actually benefits the war
against breast cancer.
I dunno, breast cancer research just has to be one of the most un-controversial charities
around. It's not like anyone's taking a stand by saying "I, for one, am opposed
to breast cancer!!!!" I don't mean to take anything away from the act of committing
resources in a sincere effort to help -- but I guess I'm always distrustful when
corporations take these easy stands. I have been ever since a restaurant gave me a drink
coaster which read "Proctor & Gamble wants you to help kids say no to drugs!" In
fact, I once got into an argument with a self-righteous circus clown who dropped into my
workplace parking lot in full clown regalia -- unannounced -- and began hectoring me
about the warm feeling he gets by giving balloon animals to impressionable fourth
graders. To help them stay off of drugs, and stuff.....
Er, sorry, I'm digressing. My point is, it's kind of like the recent Onion parody -- "Dinty
Moore Breaks Long Silence On Terrorism With Full-Page Ad." Maybe the act of participating
in these gestures, regardless of their impact, creates an enduring commitment to the
cause in both corporations and viewers that may outlast pink lights on the Leaning Tower
of Pisa or grade school clown traumatizations.
But if they want me to rein in my cynicism, I'll need to see some assurance that we
aren't just narrow-casting our compassion -- and that our contributions are going to be
used effectively and efficiently. Are we targetting prostate cancer, too -- or just yummy
breasts? Actually, now that I think about it, that's probably a Trojan Horse, since any
cure for breast cancer would most likely be applicable to other cancers as well. It just
wouldn't be as titillating to the public to launch a campaign against, say, bone marrow
cancer. Are these people slick, or what?
In fact, the Breast Cancer Research Fund knows that much of the world's attention is
focused on the aftermath of terrorist attacks in New York, so their promotional material
says they've found a common link. Yahoo's page reminds us the Breast Cancer Research
Foundation is dedicated to finding a cure for breast cancer in this lifetime, so "the
events of September 11, 2001 are that much more thought-provoking." So thought-provoking,
in fact, that the group is diverting some of the money it raises to the Twin Towers Fund.
That ought to deflect the criticism that they're siphoning off money from other
Except, maybe, for critics complaining the diversion siphons off money from breast cancer
research itself. The very reason Yahoo! went pink in the first place.