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Populist Anger Isn't Supposed To Be Cute

The Transport Workers Union of American ("TWU") has launched a playful-looking web site (http://americanexeccheck.com), in hopes of prompting outrage over executive pay generally...and, in particular, the potential bucks American Airlines' top execs might make.
The Transport Workers Union of American ("TWU") has launched a playful-looking web site (http://americanexeccheck.com), in hopes of prompting outrage over executive pay generally...and, in particular, the potential bucks American Airlines' top execs might make.The UI is goofy: blurry face shots of four reasonably well-known CEOs are stuck on SpongeBob-esque cartoon bodies, and you can drag them to sit at desks under various headlined dollar figures. The content is purposely tongue-in-cheek and kinda punny, as the text under the "American Exec Check" title reveals that the real target is American Airlines (even as it tries to merge the idea of whacking it with some broad vengence against all "American" corporate execs who make the big bucks).

The game experience ends pretty quickly, and then you're left with a petition sign-up, promising that sharing your basic info will "tell American Airlines' Board of Directors to stop giving outrageous checks." The mouseprint promises not to share said info details, but instead to "keep you up to date on this campaign."

What a silly misuse of technology.

The TWU has at its disposal the mechanism to get people truly engaged and involved in its fight: social media could be used to create a real community of evangelists (vs. a generic petition); the site could give better, up-front access to news on what's happening (vs. a vague promise to update, sometime); and the campaign could make more, and better, interactive use of information to make the primary case for action (I'm thinking a calculator that tells me how much more American's top exec is making than me for the next hour, for instance).

"Cute" just doesn't get me mad. The TWU needs to brand its campaign with some good, 'ol fashioned populist anger, doesn't it?

Jonathan Salem Baskin writes the Dim Bulb blog and is the author of Branding Only Works On Cattle.