HP spends a lot of money to tell you it's doing 0.0001% good

Just how much should corporations boast about their do-gooding side?
Written by Chris Matyszczyk, Contributing Writer

Harmonizing with gibbon noises.

Screenshot by ZDNet

Let me tell you what a great guy I am.

I always tip 50% in restaurants. I always slow down for jaywalkers. And if you only knew how much I give to charity, well, you'd be instantly desperate to follow me on Twitter and be my friend. Or even tell everyone you saw me on the street.

None of this is true, of course.

But I wanted to know, just for a moment, what it felt like to be a tech company boasting about its do-gooding credentials.

I was moved, you see, by a new ad emitted by HP. The company has spent a lot on the ad. It was filmed in a lovely forest. It's three minutes long. And it doesn't just feature famed anthropologist and conservationist Jane Goodall, but famed actor Rebel Wilson too.

They're taking a forest bath. Which, should you never have done this, means sitting on comfortable chairs in the forest while a film crew captures your every word and thought.

And gibbon noise. Goodall and Wilson rehearse their gibbon harmonies for their new band, tentatively called the Tree Gees.

Only then do we turn to the serious stuff. Selling HP's brand's goodness.

Wilson wants to know if the world will end in ten years. Goodall reassures her that we might last a little longer if we do something about it.

It's then Wilson's job to introduce the idea that Goodall and her foundation work with companies to help them not look like rapacious profit-maximizers. I'm sorry, I mean to help them direct a little money toward saving the Earth and regenerating forests.

Goodall explains how important it is to plant trees and protect forests. Which allows Wilson to introduce the sponsored sale and let Goodall explain.

"There are some companies that have seen the writing on the wall," begins Goodall. "HP is planting one million trees in collaboration with the Jane Goodall Institute, and it's part of the One Trillion Tree Challenge. A trillion trees by 2030 to save the planet."

As boasting goes, this isn't too bad, I suppose. It's the only mention of HP in the ad. Other than the HP logo perched bottom right -- always a sign of corporate insecurity, that -- all through the ad.

But while one can rousingly commend HP for its commitment to 'treedom', is it necessary to do fancy ads to crow about it? Aren't the finest, truest benefactors those who remain discreet or even anonymous?

Especially when my calculator tells me that HP is contributing a mere 0.0001% of the one trillion tree goal.

Perhaps, though, there's a sound need to boast. Many potential employees -- and, indeed, customers -- need to know that big tech companies have at least something of a heart.

And what better way to excite them than to make expensive ads about it?

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