Improving Lives a Pair at a Time

Buying a pair of Toms “saves” these kids by giving them a free pair of Tom’s new sports shoes and “encourages” them to go out and make “healthy choices.”

Sandrine is a 12 year old living in the DRC who “complains” about walking over volcanic rocks on her way to school. With Toms, Sandrine’s feet won’t hurt anymore.

So, what’s the problem?
Instead of hiding behind a brand of shoes and relishing in the idea that shoes will change structural issues, think hard about this:

  • The ECI Stripe Women’s Classics, $59.
  • If $5 is per pair is donated to the Eastern Congo Initiative, then where does the remaining $54 go?

­­­­­­­­­­­The Counter-Campaign

This video argues that free-handouts are detrimental to local businesses and textiles that make and distribute shoes to local communities. It questions whether or not a pair of shoes is really going to change large-scale social issues that impact an entire population when “No one asked for feel-good campaigns; there are a thousand things this village needs and nowhere does it say shoes.”

Buying something as abstract as Tom’s logo does not mean consumers are making a real difference; the idea is nice, but Toms profits as a corporation by exploiting good intentions.

— Johanna



Here are your images documenting the campus brand. Things to think about: What is the relationship between logos and meanings, images and experience? Why might UCSD want to create strong emotional ties among its community? How do you feel about the UCs or other public institutions investing in their brands?

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The UCSD Dinning Services webpage asks the question, “How can your caffeine fix make the world a better place?” Apparently, by pulling all nighters with the use of coffee from UCSD, students are bettering the lives of others through the consumption of Fair Trade coffee. Therefore, the average caffeine-consuming student and faculty member is an ethical consumer—at least with their coffee and tea. Other than the concept of making the world a better place, through one’s sleep-deprivation, I truly wonder how many people on this campus actually know what Fair Trade means?

I encountered three different UCSD Housing and Dining web pages’ that explain what Fair Trade is and where it is sold. All of which provide a similar brief explanation on how Fair Trade supports small farmers and establishes a direct link to the producer, rather than a large corporation. Yet, when an individual at UCSD goes to a coffee cart, only some of them advertise that they support Fair Trade. Even with this logo, there is no explanation about Fair Trade. Therefore, it is assumed that the consumer understands what Fair Trade is. The lack of signs and acknowledgment of Fair Trade makes it unknown to the consumer what products are purchasing. For example, Burger King’s coffee is Fair Trade in the Price Center, but to my knowledge there is no sign saying so.

If students and faculty are to be ethical consumers, how is this possible when people do not understand what Fair Trade is or does? Individuals amongst this campus are not advised to make the correct choices in their consumption. Especially, when the best advise is simply a sticker plastered on a coffee cart. Additionally, a large majority of the Fair Trade products at UCSD, such as coffee, tea, sugar and grains are offered in the dining halls. Considering that students receive a set amount of dining dollars, I doubt that they are consciously picking and choosing which type of sugar they are using, or which grain will go best with their meal, when they just have their ID swiped at the register.

I want to make clear that I am not against Fair Trade; rather I am a big supporter of this movement and have been for sometime. I question the matter in which UCSD advertises Fair Trade across campus. In 2009, Chancellor Fox created the Fair Trade initiative to switch food products to Fair Trade. Although the movement may have been explained four years ago, there is little information about it now. I hope that UCSD’s Fair Trade movement continues, with more information offered to the public on campus.


UCSD Fair Trade Websites:

DUE: Friday September 6th before 2:30 PM as doc, docx or pdf to You must submit (1) the Final paper AND (2) the original version of the assignment (don’t worry about the field notes/ad image if you only have paper copies).

INSTRUCTIONS: Develop your choice of either the ad analysis or mini-ethnography into a 2,000 word final paper. The paper must be carefully edited with a thesis statement and proper references, including a list of works cited.

Some ideas for the final version:

  • Ad analysis: think about the relationship between the specific ad and the brand; connect to national/global/ethical consumption; visit a space where the product is sold or where the ad appears….
  •  Space analysis: consider relationships between your space of consumption and the surrounding community; think more about power relations and alternative uses/meanings; go back for more observation (especially if you didn’t write a lot of notes the first time)…

Again, there is no single ‘right’ way to do this, but there is a wrong way. Things to avoid:

  • Inserting a few extra paragraphs into your existing paper and calling it a day. I am looking for evidence of a deeper understanding themes and concepts developed throughout the entire course.
  • Attempting to incorporate ALL the suggestions for longer papers. The paper still needs to be focused and support some kind of argument.
  • Dropping every concept/term you can think of into the paper. Choose carefully: what is the most interesting thing your ad/brand/space can contribute to class discussions/readings?

Robert Foster’s piece, “Print Advertisements and Nation Making,” made me wonder how thorough his research of advertisements is within Papua New Guinea (PNG). PNG is the most diverse country in the world when it comes to languages. Over 800 are spoken in this region, and only 398 of them are documented. Simply by noting the number of languages, indicates this country possesses rich culture, and diversity throughout the nation. In addition, their national language is a Creole, Tok Pisin, which means it is a developed language derived from a pidgin, which is  used when there are two or more groups of people who do not share a common language and therefore form their own. Therefore, based on Foster’s paper, he discusses that citizens of PNG can distinguish themselves through consumption (81). However, in my opinion I question this notion by claiming that this nation already possesses unique individuals and identities simply through having different languages.

In turn, when I was reading this article, I was wondering how these nation-wide advertisements actually targeted the entire country. With such a diverse language culture, how is it possible to effectively communicate a consumer product? Foster only touches on this point vaguely when discussing the Ramu sugar advertisement (79). Foster highlights that it is an exclusive and national commodity, yet the advertisement features a cake recipe using this sugar. Therefore, only individuals with access to a supermarket can actually utilize the product. Whereas people who “live in the bush,” as he calls them, are not likely to consume Ramu sugar since they do not have access to a commercial marketplace. In less derogatory terms, I wonder how these advertisements can effectively represent the nation, if they are not readily available for everyone. Additionally, it is not possible to reach out to citizens of PNG who live amongst their community, and away from modernized areas with access to media and commodities. Therefore, I argue that in PNG, it is impossible to establish a national brand or identity through consumption if the entire country cannot consume effectively.

Moreover, I do not think that being unable to consume, as a nation is a bad concept. I believe it is important for PNG to maintain its diversity. Yet, Foster’s paper does not convince me that it is possible to truly establish either individual or national identities through consumption, especially amongst such a diverse country.



This commercial features Oakland A’s outfielder, Yoenis Cespedes, a Hispanic immigrant who deactivated from Cuba in order to play in the MLB. As an A’s fan, I frequently watch the games and, as a result the commercials. This particular advertisement displays three Hispanic individuals: The A’s bullpen coach, Rick Rodriguez, Yoenis Cespedes and his translator Ariel Prieto, a former A’s pitcher and immigrant from Cuba. This advertisement is equally split between two languages English and Spanish. Cespedes is known for hitting homeruns (he is the most recent Home Run Derby winner). He uses his ability to hit homeruns as a bargaining tactic to have fireworks set off. Additionally, this advertisement is promoting firework night at the A’s coliseum after the completed game. This advertisement refutes some of Davila’s points in her article, “Don’t Panic I’m Hispanic.”

Davila discusses the ability media possess to act as a space, where U.S. based Hispanics can be active media participants (24). Through the use of this commercial, the Oakland A’s are targeting Hispanics in California, and specifically Hispanic baseball fans. In particular, the use of Cespedes, a recent immigrant enables Hispanic audience members to establish, “ethnic ties,” with him (30). This connection provides further incentive for Hispanics to find the Oakland A’s appealing, since they have a Hispanic player, and this advertisement is partially spoken in Spanish. Additionally, Cespedes’ Spanish is considered, “pure,” by Davila’s terms since he is a recent immigrant (35). This purity, provides a connection between the viewer and the producer, in this case the fans and the Oakland A’s. The A’s are effectively advertising Spanish culture (44).

However, this advertisement is one of the few that media produce to target Spanish-speaking groups of people in the U.S. Even though Latin America immigrants make up 11% of the population, only 1% of media is devoted to marketing to this particular audience. In turn, this advertisement also strives to target not only Spanish- speakers, but also English speakers. The use of two languages indicates that the A’s are not specifically advertising the Spanish speakers. This demonstrates Davila’s point that markets are becoming more uniform over time, and losing their individuality (53).

This advertisement is particularly interesting, because it is promoting firework night at the A’s games. Firework nights tend to be more expensive. Therefore, the fact that this advertisement is appealing for both English and Spanish speakers indicates that the A’s want more ticket buyers, in order to make a greater profit. It is questionable if the A’s actually want to address Hispanic audiences, or if they just want to make sure they have a large amount of consumers. Yet, another point that can be argued is that the A’s genuinely want to advertise to Hispanic audiences. In particular, since the commercial showcases one of their current Hispanic player, and a former Hispanic player, the commercial shows active support for the players by the A’s.

Additionally, in order to understand the advertisement, the audience has to possess some background knowledge. This background knowledge consists of understanding that Cespedes is from Cuba, or at least is a Hispanic immigrant, and that he is known for hitting homeruns. Both sides can be argued when viewing this advertisement: whether this advertisement is in search of profit, or genuinely trying to reach another fan base group. Overall, I believe this advertisement refutes Davila’s points of possessing ethnic ties, Hispanic purity and uniformity of advertising to Hispanic populations.