Thursday, April 02, 2009

Ads To Be Printed On Zimbabwe's Worthless Currency

(image via magicstatistics)

For years this blog has been crying in the wilderness, feuled by a diet of locusts and wild honey, about Robert Mugabe's mismanagement of the Zimbabwean economy. Almost nothing surprises us about Mugabe anymore except his tenacious clutch on the rudder of that leaky ship of state. Lately, however, there appears to be a critical mass building to .. something? It remains to be seen whether or not the strange death of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai's wife -- in a car wreck on the country's crumbling infrastructure -- will finally cause a grounswell, ousting that dictator from power.

Diego Velasquez, a great journalist, files this bittersweet story on Medialifemagazine:

"When they came up with the expression that something wasn't worth the paper it was printed on, they could have been anticipating the rise of Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, one of the world's most despised despots for his cruelty, his corruption and his mismanagement of that nation's economy. The Zimbabwe dollar is about worthless.

"For the folks at TBWA\Hunt\Lascaris in South Africa, that made it an ideal ad medium for its client, quite literally.

"The client: The Zimbabwean, a newspaper published in South Africa by exiled Zimbabwean journalists that reports on the country and Mugabe’s regime."

"The paper wanted a campaign to build circulation within South Africa to finance its distribution in Zimbabwe. In addition to silencing journalists who displease him, the president had imposed a tariff on The Zimbabwean that put it out of reach for impoverished Zimbabweans.

"The newspaper didn't have much money to spend on a campaign, as they explained to the agency staff, showing them their largely worthless currency.

"'When our Zimbabwean colleagues showed us the actual banknotes they were using for everyday transactions back home, we were horrified to see that they were in denominations of millions, billions and trillions,' says Nadja Lossgott, art director at TBWA\Hunt\Lascaris.

"That's when the idea popped up: Let's use the currency to deliver the message.
The agency created a series of ads, including billboards and posters, that were actually printed on Zimbabwe’s worthless currency."

There is a peculiarly oneiric quality to life under a dictator (for further reference see: Oedipus Tyrannus). Yes men. Famine. Unimaginable brutality. A pervasive air of menace. Widespread corruption. Fast changing events. But a worthless currency serving as a medium for ads, even under the surreal illogic of dreams, is goddam astonishing stuff. Has there ever been such an event in economic history? Get the full story here.

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