Samsung's ALS challenge video completely misses the point
By now you've heard of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, even if you don't know exactly what it is. Seemingly millions of people have dumped buckets of ice water on their heads to raise awareness and money for ALS funding. Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, better known as Lou Gehrig's Disease, affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, leading to the loss of voluntary muscle action and, for some in the later stages of the disease, eventual paralysis.
As of August 22, 2014 the Ice Bucket Challenge has raised over $50 million in donations for ALS research. With that much money raised there's bound to have been some criticism of those participating in the challenge, from grumps who write is off as a silly fad to politically-motivated critics who are against the use of stem cells in ALS research.
The important story is that loads of money is currently being raised for ALS, and most of the people participating in the challenge are doing so in good faith. They're participating in the challenge in a way that draws attention to the cause more than themselves, which is why a new video released by Samsung today has rubbed us the wrong way.
This morning Samsung released the following video for their Galaxy S5 phone, with the phone doing the ALS challenge. You can view it here.
The fact that Samsung would make a video for their product that latches onto a viral charity campaign is ghoulish, though let's give them points for not mentioning the waterproofness of the Galaxy S5 outright. Still, it's completely missing the point of the viral campaign to begin with. This is about people humbling themselves in the name of charity to raise awareness of a disease. If the Galaxy S5 in this ad represented Samsung CEO Boo-Keun Yoon, he would be wearing a wetsuit while getting water poured over him.
Beyond that, there's the issue of the other objects Samsung's phone challenges to participate in the ALS challenge. The iPhone, HTC One, or Nokia Lumia aren't humans, and they aren't waterproof. This is a one-sided "challenge" designed to troll other devices and companies with no active participation in continuing to raise awareness beyond annoyed think pieces like this one. So on that end, good job Samsung -- technically we're doing the promotion of ALS for you. This would be like the staff of TUAW challenging the road itself at Infinite Loop to participate, only without the gross profit motive.
Meanwhile Apple's CEO Tim Cook has participated in the ALS challenge by getting soaked with water in front of his employees. Phil Schiller, Apple's marketing guru, participated by sharing pictures of himself on Twitter. None of these moves promoted Apple products, but rather drew attention to the cause of ALS research. The iPhone may not be waterproof, but at least the company who makes it doesn't cynically co-opt charity to sell their devices.
If you are interested in donating to ALS research you can do so on their website. The ALS is a qualified 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization and your donations are tax-deductible to the full extent of the law. If you've never known anyone who suffers from this terrible disease you can learn more about it here, or read personal stories of people living with ALS here.
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