Poverty Pitch

The intersection of American business and global poverty


a photo of Dominique

Finding social justice in the crazy world of media

Meet Dominique, a hard-working student who grew up in some far off third-world country called the Philippines. Let me tell you how American products changed her life!

No, my story can’t be summed up that easily. But one- liners like these are what I usually see in corporate ads in America that attempt to represent people from developing countries – that is, if they are represented at all.

Here is what those snippets of life cut out:

With six of my high school classmates, I walked through one of the dark, narrow walkways of an urban neighborhood in Malibay, Philippines. We squeezed into the 3-story, cubicle-sized house of Nanay (Tagalog for “Mother”) Theresa – a Filipina mother and full time entrepreneur. As we settled ourselves to sit on the floor, She excitedly scavenged under her bed for a large plastic bag containing handbags, gift bags, and vanity trays. She had made all of these by intricately weaving strips of recycled paper and coating it with layer of varnish to give it a glossy shine. I was completely amazed with her creative work, but I was not there to buy these products from her. I was there to lead a student team that would work with her to devise a marketing plan that would scale up her business.

The truth is that even if she produced a thousand of these environmentally sustainable and creative products, they would just be cluttering her home if she couldn’t sell them. In this capitalist world, her business cannot compete with American companies that open up a small store at the nearby mall. It would also be difficult for her to get even her own adult-aged children to help her out when they are busy with jobs that can afford a higher salary for the same manual labor.  Working with Nanay Theresa fueled my interest in marketing, but it also made me aware that not everyone – no matter how innovative or hard working they are – can enter the market in equal ways.

collage of photos. Me, nanay Theresa, and her products: gift bags, and a handbag

Me and Nanay Theresa (top-left) and the products she made out of recycled paper: Christmas gift bags (right) and a purse (bottom-left)

This experience was just one of many encounters with poverty that I had as a student growing up and doing volunteer work in the busy streets of the Philippines. Since then, I have flown across the globe to the golden coast of California to pursue my dreams of meeting people from around the world, taking pictures of autumn leaves, sipping hot chocolate, and studying at the University of California, Berkeley. I am currently a third year student mixing together the worlds of Media Studies and Global Poverty and Practice. While I am excited by upbeat advertising culture that grows from America and privileged to be living here at this point in my life, my heart is still grounded on addressing the issues of poverty and social development that I had been exposed to in the Philippines.

Welcome to the baby of my two academic interests. This website looks at how American businesses represent or address global poverty through their use of media and advertising strategies. Who are businesses accountable to when they create Corporate Social Responsibility programs? What do these business sectors tell American consumers about global poverty through their advertising campaigns? Does it always have to be about a farmer who can feed his family through Fair Trade or an African child who gets a pair of shoes every time you buy yours?

It’s time for us to get the whole story.