Anyone who has taken a look at the environmental and social responsibility page of this site will be familiar with Buckminster Fuller’s concept of the human “trim-tab“:
Something hit me hard once, thinking about what one man could do. Think of the Queen Mary – the whole ship goes by and then comes the rudder. And there’s a tiny thing on the edge of the rudder called a trim-tab. It’s a miniature rudder. Just moving that little trim-tab builds a low pressure that pulls the rudder around. That takes almost no effort at all. So I said that the little individual can be a trim-tab. Society thinks that it’s going right by you, that’s it’s left you altogether. But if you’re doing dynamic things mentally, the fact is that you can just put your foot out like that and the whole big ship of state is going to go. So I said, “Call me Trim-tab.”
R. Buckminster Fuller, Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth, Lars Müller Publishers 2008
Raúl Salazar, cartoonist, author of the 2010 “best comic website” award for his WordPress blog Un Respeto a las Canas, and one of the creative minds behind Círculo Rojo, an advertising agency based in Valencia, Spain, recently proved himself to be an effective human trim-tab. According to a recent post in Respeto a las Canas, Raúl had observed from a window in his office that someone regularly fed several cats trapped on a nearby interior patio roof top through a ventilation window.
One day, the daily ration of kibble and water suddenly disappeared and the stranded cats began to suffer. A cat trapped on a hot tin roof in Valencia is a doomed creature. An obvious animal lover, Raúl daily tossed the cats bits of cat food packaged in paper napkins from his office window, but could do nothing to them with provide water. To his credit, he tried dropping bags of ice cubes and containers of water down to them, but nothing worked. Concerned for the wellbeing of the hapless felines, he traced the street address corresponding to the patio rooftop. He discovered that the vanished Samaritan had been an employee of a Benetton clothing store. Explaining the plight of the cats to the store manager, he learned to his surprise that the employee who had fed the cats had been repeatedly warned by the manager not to do so and had finally been transferred to another store for disobeying these orders.
At this point, many people might have said, “Oh heck, they’re just cats,” but Salazar didn’t abandon his furry friends in distress. Perhaps it was a question of personal honor or perhaps their cries of distress sparked both his civic sense and his creativity. It seems that he was just a born trim-tab determined to steer the employees of Benetton on a better course. In his words, he wasn’t asking Benetton “to pull the country out of the current financial crisis”; he was only asking them to adopt a humanitarian attitude towards a few stray cats. If you’ve ever wondered if a blog entry and a few tweets could change the policy of a multinational company (at least on a local issue), Raúl has the answer. In turns out that they can. By means of a small-scale but highly creative Internet intervention, Raúl Salazar stuck out his foot out and the local outlet of a multinational company changed its course. Just like that. Bravo, Raúl.
Viral communication is precisely what its name suggests, and Benetton sneezed. An animal protection society became aware of the situation and Benetton logged the following post on their Facebook page (imaginatively attributing their awareness of the cats plight to the heartless local store managers):
“UNITED COLORS OF BENETTON Guys, gracias para contarnos de los gatitos. El tema ya esta solucionado, les pondran agua y comida hasta el lunes, que llegara la protectora a por ellos:-)”
The 123 comments related to this post in Salazar’s blog constitute a brief but interesting survey of public opinion concerning corporate responsibility.
In any case, all’s well that ends well and Raúl is back at his desk churning out fabulous advertising graphics and no-holds-barred political cartoons. Kudos go out to one of Spain’s sharpest comic wits for a successful communication campaign. If I were Benetton’s head of public relations—or any other multinational company—I’d line up to pay Círculo Rojo a retainer fee. This little pro bono effort on behalf of a few neighborhood cats demonstrates the level of creativity and understanding of new media that Salazar obviously brings to any project he undertakes. This agency rocks.