There is no easy way to say this, so I won’t be pulling any punches. The Airtel Facebook event introducing Free Basics in Nigeria recorded a new low for such events. Mobility Arena got a nicely worded invitation letter requesting me to be present as a Special Guest at the event. I sent in a representative, who attended the event on my behalf. He returned to Mobility Towers with the usual goody bag that is standard fare from such events. The red, Airtel-branded bag included a notepad, a flash drive, and guess what, a bundle of pamphlets of the Free Basics project. This was distributed to bloggers and journalists at the event.
Airtel, Facebook; Pamphlets for What?
I stood there dazed for a moment as my creaky brain processed what I was looking at. Pamphlets. 50 of them. Like we are supposed to go sharing them or what? Is it me or is there some other implication of the pamphlets that were included in the bag? So, not only do brands want bloggers to work for free, they also now seek to turn them into foot soldiers who will take care of the distribution of their printed materials?
Whoever thought of this brilliant idea – whether it is at Airtel, Facebook, or their agencies, needs to see a doctor. He or she isn’t very okay. And everyone who agreed to the idea needs to do the same. They are all not well. Not by a long shot.
Maybe there are people out there giving these knuckleheads the idea that we are a bunch of poor, jobless layabouts waiting for someone to bestow us with some favour or something. Just perhaps. Brands that believe that sort of nonsense and want to play like that need to play on the other side of the field and stay away from Mobility Arena.
Those pamphlets are resting blissfully in the paper bin at Mobility Towers where all useless items that stray into our office go. For it is there that they rightly belong. I just needed to send a loud, public message to the guys at Airtel, Facebook or their media agencies. Whoever was behind this is mad drunk. Trust me, only self restraint holds me back from using choicer words. My name is Yomi Adegboye. I am Mister Mobility.