"Beefed-up Computing"... so starts this week's introduction of joint
marketing between Gateway2000 and McDonald's. Gateway, an IBM/Wintel
clone-maker has long used images of cows in it's corporate dealings.
Gateway systems are even shipped in boxes that are mottled black and
white - like the Holstein cows that Gateway was financed on. Cows even
have a place in the TV commercials for their "Destination" system.
This is however, the first time Gateway has used already-dead cows in their ads. Ironically, the ads were published within days of an internationally coordinated anti-McDonald's campaign which was partially organized via the internet.
Starting in this week's major computing journals, Gateway's full-color 20" x 13" pullout poster-ads feature a Gateway laptop and tower displaying images of the red and yellow "golden arches" and McDonald's fries. Between them sits a Big Mac and a mouse on a Gateway Holstein mousepad.
Opening the poster reveals a 10.75" x 7" photo of McDonald's VP of Operations Technology holding the poorly-received Arch Deluxe sandwich next to a Gateway cow-box. The box and sandwich are propped on a fence similar to those used on livestock farms. Taken at the corporate restaurant in Naperville, Illinois, the photo incorporates picture-perfect blue skies, lush vegetation, an American flag next to the McDonald's flag and a looming set of golden arches which look as if they have been digitally superimposed. If meat production is inherently unsustainable, you wouldn't know it from the picture.
In bold inch-tall text, the ads blare "Beefed-up Computing", and continue with "It takes a meaty computer to keep track of all those burgers. That's why McDonald's chose Gateway. In hundreds of corporate-owned restaurants across the country, a custom- built GATEWAY PC keeps track of everything, from how many fries are sold to who's working the drive-through". Last spring, McDonald's had a cross-marketing venture with Apple, to offer PowerMacs as prizes in their Monopoly game.
The Gateway ads can be found in several industry magazines, including the Oct 14th InfoWorld (pg. 16) and the Oct 21st PC_Week (pg. 28).
Ann Appleseth, of Gateway2000 marketing, said Gateway was aware of the McLibel issue but felt no need to steer clear. Appleseth said that Gateway wanted to feature "major accounts" for whom Gateway had done special integration. When asked about the placement of the Archway Deluxe next to the "cow-box", and whether it would cause associations not generally desired by the meat industry, Appleseth said that the cow-skin motif has always been part of "our branding".
Founder and CEO Ted Waitt designed Gateway's early ads himself, and little of Gateway's good-ole-boy style has changed since it started nine years ago in a red barn on the Waitt family's cattle ranch. Popular legend states that Waitt's Gateway computers were capitalized by his father's cattle-ranching fortune. Waitt denies this is directly true, instead giving his own cattle-ranching operation credit for funding the Gateway startup. Waitt also admits that the name for his company was in part, given to him by a drinking buddy in a bar.
Waitt, as meat and milk producer, used the sources of his profit as part of Gateway2000's corporate "branding". Even the big, modern, main building at Gateway is painted like a cow. Waitt's own office is all decorated in the black and white cow motif. Far from being an animal-lover, Waitt's phone system treats callers on hold to a short loop of songs and promotionals sure to raise the eyebrows of animal-protectionists and deep-green environmentalists.
Aretha Franklin, credited with bringing furs back out of the closet by wearing dead animals to Clinton's '92 inauguration, croons about the "Respect", she reserves only for animals of the two-legged variety. The female phone-DJ reminds listeners that at Gateway, staff dresses casual, like when they have their Saturday-evening Barbecues, at which point she yells
| "Hey Bill! Throw another burger on for me! And crank up some ZZ
Top.". After "Sharp Dressed Man"
(in leather no doubt) finishes, the
theme from "Rawhide" plays "...don't try to understand 'em, Just throw the
rope and brand 'em". Later she explains there are over four million "head
of cattle" in Gateway's home state of South Dakota,
and that humans are
"outnumbered by 6 to 1". While the theme from "Green Acres" plays, the
announcer tells callers that each of Waitt's dairy cows produce 256
glasses of milk a day, though saying nothing about veal.
No small wonder then, that a man who sees animals only as production machines, would house his computers and workers in structures which look like cow-skin. And it's not a great leap to see why such a man would embrace product-shots for McDonald's. He stands to make money both ways. Promoting his computers and his beef.
As technology becomes more pivotal in daily life, will animal groups that target companies like GM and Gillette eventually start making warning-stickers that say "This Computer Was Built with Blood Money"?
Gateway's hold-music selection has inadvertantly opened the door for groups such as PETA to get more plausibly involved, and pack celebrity firepower to boot. While the phone-DJ waxes about a technological global "revolution" and the opening of more Gateway assembly plants in France, Germany, Malaysia, Japan and Australia, the Beatle's classic "Revolution" spins up. No doubt, Paul McCartney would not be happy to see Beatles music used by the likes of Gateway. Years earlier, Paul and wife Linda launched a vegetarian line of foods. More recently, McCartney left voice-mail messages to hundreds of Gillette employees regarding the company's product-testing on animals. Only a week before the Gateway ads, McCartney and PETA placed a spurious fur ad in the New Yorker magazine designed to help respondents to the ad "save thousands" on fur. Callers got to hear McCartney, and were sent a video detailing how boycotting fur would save thousands "of animal lives".
Gateway has opened an assembly plant in Ireland, and states their next goal is to be #1 in western Europe, where incidentally, vegetarian activism is strong. This is the same area where the CPEA-endorsed "cruelty free" Amiga computer has it's strongest following. Gateway left Dell in the dust over a year ago, has become a multi-billion-dollar Fortune 500 company in only seven years, and has achieved growth that's phenomenal even by the standards of the industry. All this, despite using the less-than stellar Intel Pentium processor, and a rushed IBM-originated design.
The computer industry uses so many animal-unfriendly tie-ins, that PETA's "Smellies" winners would pale in comparison. DEC's (Digital Equipment Corp.) rodeo adverts are almost indistinguishable from Marlboro ads, and HP's elephant-on-a-tricycle earned a thumbs-down from anti-circus activists. In the late 80's, Apple's ersatz image as the progressive computer company was further unraveled when it payed for its Mac to become the "Official Burger King Kid's Club Computer".
Perhaps the most notorious was AMD's Microsoft-approved ad for the Am486 chip, which showed an Am486, a slab of meat, cheese and a leather purse. The ad presented the MS-Windows seal on the Am486 as analagous to the "USDA Choice", "REAL" (Dairy) and `Genuine Leather' sticker on the other products, signifying "Standards of Excellence".
The only other computer advert to evoke such strong reaction, was Apple's Earth Day ads which extolled the virtues of animal experimentation. This, after getting complaints and threats of boycotts from bio-med interests over Apple's use of Jenifer Graham in commercials. Apple then abruptly dumped Graham's commercials, and the subsequent pro-vivisection print ads were seen as an attempt woo the bio-med market back to Macs.