I sent an email to the Greater Washington Initiative about their ad, and got a we're sorry it bothered you response. The response included the following, "It was only meant to be promote the region's highly educated workforce, to be humorous, and not to offend anyone." They responded smilarly in the article in the Washington Post*. (In fact the quote there implies that most people are smart enough to understand, just in case I hadn't felt insulted enough with the ad itself, now they are telling me it's my stupidity holding me back here. Thanks.)
I get it that the people at GWI** want to market the coolness of the DC metro area. And apparently the DC metro area has a highly educated workforce and sure that's a great beenfit to a business looking to expand into this market. And I understand there's going to be an element of superiority in any campaign that is trying to compare highly educated people to not highly educated people. So whether they chose a different book, or had the lesser educated person not reading, or sleeping there are always people who are going to identify with the lesser educated person and therefore feel slighted.
That is why I think it was a misguided idea. The DC metro area totally rocks, but do we have to demonstrate that by being better than somewhere else or could we maybe just emphasize our own merits. Studies seem to show over and over that voters hate negative ads, and yet politicians keep running them. How about you tell me what you want to do for my city/state/country? And then I'll decide from there. I think most people understand the concept of an election, I don't need to be told you want my vote, I need you to use your time telling me what you want to do with it. And if you spend all that time telling me someone else is evil, how does that convince me that you are worthy of my vote?
So, I feel sad that the GWI feels that the area can't just be touted for it's own merits. I feel sad that they don't see the harm in making fun of the largest batch of readers in our nation. I feel sad that the apparently think that reading Plato demonstrates a higher level of education than reading anything.
**This is my abbreviation for them.