Forget everything i've written: corporations understand. Just read this press release I got: "With the cost of tuition soaring across Canada, multiple part-time jobs and scholarships alone won't be enough to help students keep up with their enormous bills." The problem, it seems, is that there just aren't enough exciting sweepstakes. And the good people at Crest, Herbal Essences, Physique and Tampax are "thrilled' to have "teamed up' to fill that depressing void of tacky promotions. They've coming to York and U of T armed with market surveys masquerading as contest entry forms, the prize being $6,000 toward tuition. Help is on the way for students.
Or make that "student," since only one can win. For our trouble we'll get some of those little free-sample shampoo sacks (am I the only one who wants to use them on my fries?) and some other gewgaws that the contest sponsors, through selfless perseverance, were able to "secure."
The personal-care peddlers only "teamed up" in the sense that getting the same office memo is teaming up. They're all brands owned by Procter & Gamble and have offices in the same building.
Curious, I phoned Rob Linden, the PR flack promoting the campaign. Gushing about how noble this all is for underfunded young folks, he tells me, "There will be no outbound marketing going to the students" -- except, I guess, for all the marketing involved. "It's just to get an understanding of what students do."
One of the things students do a lot is complain about exorbitant tuition. The school administrations giving P&G space for their event certainly understand that. But rather than buy into nutty schemes like lowering fees, they'll just let a company buy off one person with $6,000 and toss around a bunch of Free Crap.
According to press material, those hand-me-downs are supposed to help defray student living costs for basic needs. Assuming for now that putting petrochemicals in your hair or a disposable bleached plug in your vagina is a basic need, and pretending that it's not downright insulting to list shampoo as a student essential but not beer (one makes you more attractive, the other makes everyone else more attractive), I'm still not sure this will fatten anyone's wallet. More likely, the campaign is a response to growing anti-corporate sentiment on campus.
That said, though, it's true that $6,000 is a lot of money. But to put the amount in perspective, it's roughly 0.000004 per cent of Procter & Gamble's net earnings in the most recent fiscal quarter. And should the winner be a Yorkie, the bounty can be seen as a partial refund, considering it's about 0.004 per cent of the amount that York University invested in Procter & Gamble in 2001.
Yorkies, whip out your calculators: 0.004 per cent of your tuition (assuming an average tuition of $6,000) is $24. That means Procter & Gamble actually owes each of York's 40,000 students about 24 bucks, which would go further toward basic needs than single-serving shampoo. But in the flurry of free sampling, the focus will once again be turned away from the consequences of putting bankers on the schools' boards of governors and toward begging companies for the money they tell us we need to get the degrees they tell us we need -- to work for them.