Commentary

More Dullness Than Light in Latest Dulux "Let's Colour Project"

As an individual whose lot in life is to trawl the web for brand-burnishing video, I often find myself confronted by daunting philosophical questions. Like: "Is it possible for a brand to do more harm than good by seeking attention for its feats of charitable largesse?" Or perhaps: "Is that the CEO's wife singing the song in the background?" Or: "Seriously, a global megaconglomerate wouldn't really pay someone valid currency for something that sounds like a distressed beagle cooing over a rejected ABBA track, would it?"

I ask these questions in the wake of viewing "Let's Colour Project So Far… in 4 Minutes," a clip which showcases the benevolent munificence of Dulux and its sibling paint brands. For the past two years or so, the Let's Colour Project has been on an urban-prettification binge, arming local groups around the world with Dulux paints and encouraging them to slap some color on schools, graffiti-scrawled slums and other eyesores. As far as product/charity tie-ins go, few line up quite as naturally.

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Unfortunately, Dulux decided to set aside its manic paintlust and pat itself on the back for a community-involvement campaign well done. The resulting four minutes and change of video don't undo all the campaign's good - the buildings are still painted and the children are still smiling and la la la sunshine gumdrop happypies - but they make Dulux look like a parody of a community-focused brand, one more eager to tout its fundamental decency than to present itself as a forward-thinking, serious-minded category leader.

"Let's Colour Project So Far" packs a whole lot into its four minutes. There are sped-up sequences in which any number of public surfaces go from naked to painted in three seconds flat. There are shots of people painting, creatively intercut with shots of people smiling and people giving the camera an enthusiastic thumbs-up. There are stat counters spinning madly, illustrating the multiplying-as-we-speak number of Facebook, Twitter and YouTube nods and the ever-quantifiable "lives impacted" - because really, nothing impacts a young life like a freshly orange-coated stoop.

Most useful of all, there are deep thoughts voiced by project participants and observers, who alternately sound optimistic about trivial matters ("It shows the children that there are whole teams of people who are out there thinking about colour and paint and all the rest of it") and somewhat porny ("without colour… there is no throbbing vibration to live"). If you didn't know any better, you'd think the video was produced by a teenager armed only with relentless good cheer and a circa-2005 Microsoft make-your-own-videos tutorial.

And then there's the aforementioned background song, which has burrowed its way into my cerebrum in the hours since I had the bad fortune to encounter its dulcet melodies. Atop a peppy, mechanical backbeat, the singer outlines a dystopian vision of multihued tomorrows in which no surface goes unpainted: "We'll own the future together… let's colour… show them what we can do… we are the world, we'll colour the world brand new… let's colour… future for me and you (let's colour)… together we'll make it new (let's colour)… shine so bright (let's colour)." Does anyone know offhand which international tribunal holds jurisdiction over atrocities of a jangly nature?

The only thing to admire about the clip, really, is that the Let's Colour folks don't wield the branding paddle too sadistically. Dulux-stamped products don't make their first cameo until the 1:51 mark and the brand's on-screen appearances never approach the usual level of pleased-with-self obnoxiousness. To that end, I suspect the "Let's Colour Project So Far" director is in hiding after a series of veiled "I know where you work" threats from the recognition-thirsty folks in marketing.

Charity and community involvement are good things, whether or not they're court-ordered. But by flashing its good-corporate-citizen badge so ineptly, Dulux makes me think less of its brand and, by extension, its products. It's like, these people can't string together an innocuous, effective 100-second clip promoting a worthy community-involvement project, and they expect me to welcome their paints into my boudoir? Think again, Mister! That's kind of an achievement in itself.

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