Smugness is ugly. And useless.

There’s a BMW spot out there that chaps my hide every time I hear it. The guy’s voice is rich, and vaguely cultured, but also incredibly self-satisfied. It talks about how BMW has been “first” in bla bla bla etcetera etcetera.

It goes on like this for an excruciating 35 seconds. Clearly it is catering to the kind of person who wants to have the number-one thing in his or her garage, to look at and pat every once in awhile. “My precious,” so on. You get the drift.

This is on my mind because last week, I went to shadow the assessment course for the ShelterBox Response Team, and I think I finally figured out why this kind of advertising irritates me so much. (Those of you who don’t know, ShelterBox is a disaster-relief agency. I’m a member of the volunteer team that goes in to assess needs and deliver our bespoke disaster-relief goods, and our candidates go through a rigorous testing process before we can deploy them to disaster areas, for obvious reasons.)

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The testing is hard, but one of the candidates this weekend nailed it when we were all sitting around chatting after the course had ended. I asked what he thought. He considered for awhile, and then said, “A lot of the pressure was internal, and not from external sources.”

People. I have never wanted to slow-clap so badly in my life, and not in an ironic way, either. When push comes to shove, we don’t really care where you got your degrees, or even what you got them in. We don’t really care what you did in your past life. We don’t even care what you do for your career currently. (Unless, obviously, it affects your availability to deploy for us.) We care about who you are, at your very core, and about the stuff you’re made of.

In short, it’s about what’s under the hood, and not about the stupid bling you have all over your walls. For BMW, and advertisers like them, it should be about building a better car, or product, just like we’re out to build the best ShelterBox Response Team we can possibly build.

I’m so honored to have been a shadow for the course this past week. We trainers can learn a lot about ourselves over the course of the four days we have the candidates, so it’s a doubly-rewarding experience, even despite the sweltering heat, danger plants, bugs, and navigational mistakes. (*cough*.) I hope everyone out there gets an experience like this once in their lives.

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Writer, editor, general crazy-pants.

2 Responses to Smugness is ugly. And useless.
  1. Dave Hallett says:

    Not many BMW’s in disaster zones that aren’t crushed or stranded. But the people who survive, begin to re-build, and look out for their children show real strength of character and I’m proud of the Shelterbox folks who leave their bling behind to help out in these trying places and times. Special people.

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