Commentary

What I Talk About After Watching Siemens' Online Videos

I had an elaborate, "funny" introduction written about the handful of Siemens videos that we'll be discussing in today's exercise. In it, I spun a whimsical tale about how I happened upon the clips after clicking on a typo-laden banner ad that lined the right side of the Doonesbury home page. You may well have LOLOMG'd! at the part where I likened the failure to hyphenate "100-year-old factory" to leaving the scene of a hit-and-run accident that mortally injured a small child and his puppy. There is no humor like grammar humor.

But frankly, after rewatching the videos, I'm too depressed to polish it up for publication. So here's what you need to know: Siemens is a big-ass company that, like many big-ass companies, wants to be perceived less as a self-serving carbon menace and more as a benevolent, lullaby-humming shade tree. To that end, Siemens has produced a bunch of exquisitely filmed web videos about how it is saving the universe, one environmentally conscious scalable modular automation initiative at a time.

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Siemens bills them as "stories" and tags them with titles like Oktoberfest Emperors and A Ferry Tale. As if this weren't precious enough, the company packs each storyfilm with Film School 101 visual clichés (hyper-close-ups on dewy leaves, shots of roosters to denote the earliness of the hour, etc.) and subjects who could only be more sympathetic if they were shown donating kidneys as the credits rolled. They're so decent and unassuming, it's offensive.

Of the videoclipstories posted to date, the crowning cinematic achievement is unquestionably Unexpected Idyll. At its outset, we see an excellently red-bearded dude who appears to be a woodsman, seemingly heading out into the woods with his hunting dog and rifle to show the local duck population who's boss. Following captioned monologues about a fallen tree that's "simply beautiful" and how we "need to show animals respect," Redbeard happens upon a security fence.

Now, if you're anything like me, you're thinking, "Cool! Secret military installation!" and praying that Redbeard has disabled the GPS on his phone, just in case the baddies are monitoring the perimeter. But noooooo, it's just the fucking HAMBURG AIRPORT, which neighbors the twinkly woodsy paradise… and it turns out that Redbeard is its in-house forest ranger. This big reveal comes at the 3:10 mark of a 3:36 clip. Then Redbeard - we learn that his name is Markus, which is a solid 67.5% less cool than Redbeard - quips, ever so twee-ly, that he "[has] never flown anywhere for vacation." Oh! Braniff Airways burn! Only then do we get smacked with the Siemens branding and save-the-tulips conservation message; previously, the brand had as much presence in the clip as Snapple or Dennis Rodman.

And yet the cloying enviro-happies of Unexpected Idyll look positively Kubrickian next to the video to which the typo-banner directed me - which, since it lacks a formal title, I've chosen to call Industrial Capability 1997 B-Roll FOR INTERNAL USE ONLY. In it, Siemens notes that "bringing a new product to the market is a challenge - a challenge that you need to meet." Note the use of "need to meet," as opposed to "might want to meet" or "could meet, if you're feeling that way." Strong!

After throwing down that particular corporate gauntlet, the company shows us scenes of business meetings (we know they're business meetings because there are open books splayed across a table and big graphs with the words "revenue" and "profit" written in huge letters next to a series of ascending lines) and scenes shot in the world's only totally logo-free factory (we know it's a factory because everybody wears glasses with interesting frames and makes satisfied-looking faces after huge production successes). There is a troubling amount of handshaking during these scenes; one such instance is captured in a close-up that makes the hands appear dinosaur-sized, as if they were the aggressor in a 1950s sci-fi flick.

The computers look like they're a decade old. The Siemens-stamped phones are the size of six iPads. If I were a big important factory manager and saw this thing, I'd sooner hire Greenpeace to greenify and logisticize my big important factory.

Here is a link to Siemens' YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/Siemens. Do with it what you must. Let us never speak of its contents again.

2 comments about "What I Talk About After Watching Siemens' Online Videos ".
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  1. Ruth Barrett from EarthSayers.tv, May 15, 2012 at 4:06 p.m.

    Couldn't have said it better myself. And taking it to the next step, the good feel online vidoes will enable large Corporations to capture top running page results on terms that scream irony such as McDonalds and family farming or BP and oceans. It hasn't happened yet, but only because they haven't tied down the whole taxonomy strategy vis-a-vis sustainability. Give it time. It will happen first on YouTube search. And, when the organic thing doesn't work, there is always the cash they have to buy sponsored links in number one positions. Do a search on "Youth and Sustainability" to see what I mean.

  2. Ngoc T from Iowa, May 17, 2012 at 5:36 p.m.

    Uncle Larry nails it again.

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