Monday, July 7, 2008

Information Overload: A Full-Page Ad in The Wall Street Journal Makes Me See Red

Today my younger daughter wanted me to read an article on information overload. I told her I didn’t have time to read about it – I was living information overload.

And as an example of information overload, I want to carp about a full-page ad on the back page of the first section of the July 5th Wall Street Journal. It took me some time to decipher the ad, so I’ll lay it out for you the way I read it:

Pictured on an email screen was an email message to Wives (and Husband) of G8 Leaders with the subject line: A Matter of Life and Death. Here’s the entire email ad (boldface was in the ad as was the misplaced comma separating the subject and the verb in the first sentence of the second paragraph):

“Dear G8 First Ladies (and First Man),

“Every minute of every day a woman dies in childbirth. That’s half a million women dying each year – and over 80% of these deaths are avoidable. But there’s the good news – the person with whom you live can help stop this happening. Really.

“The 30 of us, write to the 8 of you, women to women (and, with respect, also to you Herr Sauer), on behalf of all women … please do what you can to put this issue at the top of the political agenda. We now have the knowledge to crack it – we just need the political will.

“At this year’s G8, your 7 husbands (and 1 wife) have an opportunity to make history. There is a real chance. Please do what you can – on behalf of us all.

“With urgent best wishes,”

And there followed 30 identified head shots of such women as Gwyneth Paltrow, Yoko Ono, and Dame Judi Dench. Then at the very bottom of the ad were these words: Please join these inspirational women and many more as part of the campaign to reduce maternal mortality.

Now I’m all for improving safety in childbirth. But honestly – does Dame Judi Dench (whose acting I adore) truly think that the above ad – seemingly written by someone who does not speak the Queen’s English – will motivate anyone, especially the heads of states with major economic and security issues, to do anything at the G8 about safer childbirth?

When I read the full-page ad, all I could think of was: The money spent on this ad could probably save at least one woman’s life. And what’s the proposed solution? All the ad says is: “We now have the knowledge to crack it – we just need the political will.”

If the 30 powerful women whose head shots “sign” the ad put their heads and resources together, they could probably come up with solutions that could make childbirth safer even in third world countries. (For example, what about having some of these inspirational women record basic health messages with subtitles in whatever language is needed?)

Instead we’re to believe that these 30 powerful women are truly waiting for seven women and one man to talk to their heads-of-state spouses about trying to prevent childbirth deaths. Now that’s information overload.

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