Friday, September 14, 2007

Pass it On

You might have seen the billboard featuring Christopher Reeve, with the caption "Super Man" on it.  This billboard has several brothers along our freeways, inspiring virtue in passing drivers.  One day, I became curious what good soul was sponsoring these billboards.  As it turns out, they are the product of the Foundation for a Better Life.  Interestingly enough, the Outdoor Advertising Association of America notes the fifth stage of the "Pass it On Campaign" on their Public Service Campaigns page.

This morning, another billboard caught my eye.  It told me that "Save your money, and one day it will return the favor".  The advertisement was sponsored by FeedThePig.Org.  "Boy, that's good advice, " I thought to myself, "people really don't save enough money.  Who would sponsor such good advice?"  The answer came to me quickly enough.  Banks.  As it turns out, I was close.  The sponsor is the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants.  When I realized that this good advice was probably paid for by someone who would benefit from it, I was irritated.

The Outdoor Advertising Association of America certainly cannot fill all its billboards, all the time.  As a result it can donate billboard space to charitable foundations, like the Foundation for a Better Life.  This donation becomes tax deductible, thus recouping some of the expense of an otherwise unoccupied billboard.  Similarly the AICPA can drum up more business for itself, and get a tax deduction at the same time by creating the Feed the Pig organization.

Does a dual purpose behind a message negate the meaning?  Yes.  Should it?  Probably not necessarily.  The Foundation for a Better Life has certainly made my commutes, and those of others more pleasant.  The foundation may actually have inspired a few "random acts of kindness" here and there.  A nice use of an otherwise obnoxious billboard space.  Does Feed the Pig offer good, or bad advice?'s good advice, espousing the virtues of sound fiscal management.

Now I'm left wondering how I became such a cynic that my first priority when I encounter a charity is to discover who benefits from it.  That isn't bad either, though, because we should be aware of who may be manipulating us.  Now that I know, I still enjoy both sets of billboards while I commute.

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