Your Man in Panama
Twittering expats enjoying the good life in Panama where per capita cell phone usage rivals anywhere in the world, will likely not have seen a US produced ad showing how “the other half" lives.
A new ad campaign from charitable organization Water is Life features Haitian children and adults reading the everyday gripes and minor irritations that first world citizens post on Twitter with the popular #FirstWorldProblems hashtag.
A Newsroom reader in Australia guided me to a Huffington Post report on the campaign led me to reflecting how little most foreign residents, and a big percentage of the well-heeled local population know about the lives of “the other half” in Panama, where a visit to the “Interior means a trip to some luxury resort, or a weekend in a second or third home by the beach .fitted with all the latest mod cons where, over their sundowners they can complain about the excesses of elected local politicians or vent their anger at the tax authorities “back home”
Few of us are aware of how our maids live, how they and their children are surviving in the face of a rapidly increasing cost of living, and how much of their pitifully low salaries is spent on transportation and the bare necessities for survival. Some even dodge payment of social security which, when the maid "retires," she has no income and must rely on the help of family, living in the same economic black hole.
Deeper in the interior there are many living the third world life, compared to whom struggling maids have reached a relative Nirvana ... at least they get fed.
A low point was reached a couple of years back when citizens were encouraged to vote for a local singer, in a Latin American sing contest. Scores of thousands called in, pledging millions of dollars for the promoters and ensuring a Panamanian “victory”. Millions more was raised in Costa Rica for a “loss”. On the day the winner was proclaimed, an indigenous child, died of malnutrition. Go figure. It’s not the sort of thing realtors like to talk about when promoting the good life in the Panamanian paradise.
Which brings me back to the Huffington Post reminder of how much we worry over the trivialities of the good life.
Entitled "First World Problems Anthem," the 1-minute video features "complaints" like this one, read by a woman standing outside a house: "I hate it when my neighbors block their wifi." Or this one, read by a young boy standing among pigs and chickens: "I hate when I tell them no pickles, and they still give me pickles."
Produced by ad agency DDB NY, the spot by for Water for Life is meant to raise awareness of the nonprofit's efforts to provide clean drinking water in countries like India and Haiti.
Clean, potable water is scarce in many areas of the world.
Access to water will be one of the most critical challenges of our time," actor Matt Damon said in a statement to USA Today in December. "There are a lot of ways to tackle it, but for me, ensuring that every human being has access to safe drinking water and the dignity of a toilet … is one of the most urgent and pressing causes in the world today."
According to UNICEF, the lack of safe water and sanitation is the world’s single largest cause of illness, with young children and the elderly at particular risk.
Water is Life's special project is called "The Straw," a $10 a portable water filter/purifier that the organization says can be used in any water source to provide clean, safe drinking water for a year.
The video's concept -- taking what has become a popular meme (cultural trends) theme and using it to expose the irony of the #FirstWorldProblems Twitter hashtag -- is interesting and potentially unique.
This is the first time an advertiser has attempted to eliminate, rather than promote a trending hashtag, according to a press release from DDB NY.
DDB NY and a film crew travelled to Haiti to film a variety of locals reading aloud a series of #FirstWorldProblemS tweets and providing brief commentary on the Twitter users’ “struggles.” Each resulting response video is now being tweeted to the original #FirstWorldProblems author with a simple call to action: Donate to help solve real problems.
That message should have resonated during the song contest.