The Business Math – How to amplify our voices

I ran across this Facebook site a friend of mine signed up for boycotting the movie “The Change Up” by Universal Studios due to its derogatory content towards people with DS.  I agreed with the premise, but I did not like the page.  I didn’t like the page because FB forces you to share that with everyone….your high school acquaintances, extended family, college roommates, etc.  I like so many DS groups and comments that I have to be careful not to annoy my friends’ FB news stream with my personal politics.  I have a friend on FB who has dedicated her life to saving dogs; I don’t want to be the person with a dog post every hour.  Sometimes you need to speak less to be heard more.  I also joined Google+ yesterday which has me very excited.  I can add people in the DS community to my “DS circle” of friends and only share with them.  I can share with them everything, while sharing slightly less with family and far less with acquaintances.  I think it will be a more positive tool for using social media to inform, stay informed, and advocate.


But I saw a deeper issue with the FB page, and that is what I wanted to write about.  I think about this effort in the context of other recent media gaffes such as GQ’s recent comments, or Wonkette’s unfortunate comments.  While the editors at Wonkette were initially very resistant to calls for removing the article, eventually they took a hit in the pocket book and saw the errors of their ways (as it turns out free speech sometimes costs a lot).  Meanwhile, GQ, who was more receptive to admitting their sins privately at first, has become more resistive and refuses to issue a public apology.  And, even the PR experts agree it is a bad move.  We also know the movie industry was put on notice with Tropic Thunder in 2008.


So, why were the Wonkette protestors successful while the GQ protestors have not been?  I believe there are two issues.  One, most people (including me) wrote GQ rather than also writing their advertisers as well.  In the case of Wonkette, people not only wrote the advertisers, but they did it in the public forum of Twitter.  Advertisers were forced to reckon with it publicly.  Two, the demographics  responding to Wonkette include a ton of Palin fans and conservative activists.  They had demographics in their favor that the singular DS community does not have.


Demographics…do the math.  If there are 400k people in the US with DS, and if each person has two parents and 1 sibling, that means including the person with DS there are 1.6 million Americans with a family member with DS out of a population of 300 Million….. about a half a percent of the total population – a micro-minority.  Heck, you could fit us all inside Rhode Island, no make that Providence, Rhode Island!  It’s a pretty large country outside of Providence!


If there is one thing being a short guy in a large family has taught me is that if you have a small body, sometimes you need a large mouth to be heard (and a large wallet never hurts either).  The DS community can be rather vocal when it needs to be, but if we could better organize our voice, we could amplify our message.  And if we actively seek avenues that reward and punish businesses based on good/poor conduct, our small population would be a larger group to businesses.


Consider the business math for  “The Change Up” for a second (I apologize if the math is a bit much, please try to stick with it).  It is obviously a sophomoric movie probably meant to attract some of the 22 million men aged 15-24 with a brainless end-of-the-summer toilet humor movie (imagine that, Tropic Thunder was released in August as well).  Their jokes probably directly insulted less than 1% of the demographic!!


But what about boycotting all of their films including Cowboys & AliensLarry CrowneFast FiveAdjustment BureauHop, and (ironically enough) Despicable?  What about boycotting other parent company revenue streams (NBC TV stations, Hulu,  iVillage parenting website, Universal Parks and resorts)?  Comcast and GE each own about half of the company.  What about changing cable providers?  Or boycotting GE appliances?  Boycotting the movie is a necessary prerequisite, but it also plays into the business math used to decide on this low-brow humor – “who cares, we lose a few thousand ticket sales and we get a bunch of free press from advocates”.  If we could organize a mass exodus from iVillage or Comcast, then the math changes.  The company as a whole is responsible for its actions, not just the movie.


When a company realizes a $15 million movie can cost it a lot more revenue in all of its businesses it will think twice.  Social responsibility for most companies comes when the CFO sees the true economic value in it, not when an executive has a religious experience.  Comcast makes about $1500 per year per subscriber (See page 46).  If it lost 10,000 of its 22 million cable customers, it would be having a serious talk with Universal.  And that involves less than 3% of the DS community changing cable providers – a small body amplifying its voice.  When you change the paradigm on the business math, executives are forced to see a larger force and change comes.


Now, here comes the real interesting twist.  What if you could go to the DS community and get 10,000 people to agree to switch.  Then you go to DirectTV and say “match the price and make a 5% contribution of first year  sales to the NDSS ($750k) and you have 10,000 new subscribers”.  A social deal site with a social conscious…..look out Groupon!  Oh, and I am pretty sure “The Change up 2” and “Tropic Thunder 2” scripts end up in the trash can.


Maybe I am just tired of getting upset and writing letters.  But then again, I am willing to bet our wallets have more muscle than our mouths.  What do you think?


About liftedupbyds

I am father of a child with Down syndrome on a quest to bring greater positive awareness and greater opportunities to people with Down syndrome.
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