Get Off Your Privileged Ass!

It’s coming onto the second half of January and, like every year, that means the World Economic Forum, in the Swiss ski-resort of Davos, where the world’s most powerful and well-heeled come together annually to hobnob, look down from the summit (figuratively but also literally, given Davos’ height-above-sea-level) at the rest of us poor slobs and try to solve some of the world’s problems. Such a gathering of influential and monied types is sheer nirvana for advertisers and others who would seek to influence them in some way. (Including of course the fearless & topless banshees of FEMEN: going around half-naked in the January snow does not faze these gals!)

As you might imagine, the Union Bank of Switzerland (UBS) has an inside track when it comes to accessing Davos attendees. (I don’t mean just from its status as a prominent local bank; it also still likely aids many of those assembled to avoid taxes in their home countries via its no-name-but-number bank accounts.) This year it has come up with a real PR winner:

OK, what’s this about “6 kilometers”? It’s fairly simple: UBS is going to invite all WEF attendees to wear a rose-colored odometer during the time that they are there. If a minimum of 1,000 participants record having walked six kilometers during their stay, then UBS will donate 2,500 bicycles to poor African children for use in traveling to school.

What’s more, according to this piece there will be live screens set up here and there “to report directly the results of this challenge.” Interesting! Does this mean reporting results by name? I say again, loads of really prominent people attend the WEF: company presidents, heads of state/government: will they want to play along, and will they want to see their personal results displayed on a public screen?

(A related question: will the odometer be affixed to them in some non-tamperable way – like the way at some parties you get a non-tamperable wristband to show you belong there – so they just can’t hand them off to their flunkies to do their walking for them? You’d have to think that these are the type of people who won’t put up with having something like that attached to them that way.)

As Anne-Florence Pasquier, the journalist who wrote this article in the Swiss paper Le Matin points out, those in charge of this campaign realize that they’re going to have to recruit some big names to take part, and let people know they are taking part, to create a wave of social pressure for others to do the same, if they are not to see this whole idea become an embarrassing flop.

On-the-Spot Reporting

As it turns out, your friendly neighborhood EuroSavant actually attended a WEF session a few years ago. Yes, this is the jet-set cosmopolitan life that cosmopolitan blogging – if done just right! – can bring you, although I do admit that my rank was fairly low within the hierarchy of WEF identity cards one is issued upon arrival, and which one wears on a cord around one’s neck (other than the top, top celebrities there) to gain admission to the venues/events which one has the right to attend.

So then, what about that 6 km – how easy would it be to cover that? It’s hardly true that everything takes place at one big compound in Davos during the WEF; rather, the public lectures/conferences and parties are spread throughout the town. Now, the town is not that big, but I estimate that six kilometers would be no problem IF one was willing to travel to most of one’s engagements over the four days of the event on foot. It might even be possible to skip a day, i.e. let oneself be ferried around in limousines for one day, given that the sheer walking-around one does on a given evening shifting between all the parties being given at any of the main grand hotels is considerable (and I do know about that).

Then again, Davos is fundamentally – and for most of the year – a small Swiss skiing town. That means that, although the stores on the street are often very up-scale, the sidewalks are pretty regular, normal width. Plus, this time of year they’re likely to be a bit snowy and icy – and it’s COLD there! Actually, some of the cross-sidewalks have a bit of a slope to them as well.

I certainly had no access to any limousine or car-service when I was there, and I remember well walking in the cold. I did see a couple notable conference attendees whom I could recognize on those sidewalks as well as, no doubt, others whom I could not recognize. Still, these people did not get where they are today – or, as the case may be, did not allow the wealth/position they inherited from their parents to put them where they are today – to then go walking on slippery sidewalks in the middle of a Swiss Alpine winter! Kudos to the UBS marketing team for creative gimmickry, but I’m afraid that in the end this might not fly. Either that, or you might be able to witness a lot of young aides and staffers trudging, seemingly aimlessly, along Davos’ backroads during the early mornings and late evenings.

UPDATE: Things are not looking good.


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