Employed in past attacks on paper and printing, propaganda is a form of communication aimed at influencing the attitude of a community toward some cause or position by presenting only one side of an argument. Print/paper proponent Two Sides was another first responder on Jan. 8, carefully crafting an open letter, to Google’s Schmidt (www.twosides.info/UK/Google-Go-Paperless-in-2013-campaign), which subsequently was emailed to interested parties. Choose Print, an initiative of local PIA affiliate PIASC in Southern California, issued a press release entitled “Saving time. Saving money. Saving trees?”
Not surprisingly, Google executives declined to be interviewed for this article. But whoever approved the stately tree image with its flourishing green leafage should probably have opted for a different stock photo. “Thanks for reaching out; however, we don't have any comment for this story,” Katelin Todhunter-Gerberg, Google senior associate of Global Communications and Public Affairs, wrote via email. Nonetheless, I give her and her Paperless Coalition partners the benefit of the doubt. Call me naïve, but I don’t believe the imagery and word choice on their ring-in-the-new-year landing page was intended to be misleading. But mislead it does, premeditated or not.
I’ve been writing about the unrealized potential of the paperless office for more than two decades. (Read my 2010 ode to print here: www.myprintresource.com/article/10264985.) Admittedly, its electronic/digital/technologic reality is closer now than ever before. Three-year-old firm HelloFax.com took a more objective, factual approach in a New Year’s Day blog: “It’s 2013 and our society still uses a ton of paper,” CEO and co-founder Joseph Walla wrote plainly in straight text format.
There were no pretty pictures of green trees in the background of this digital visionary’s message. His firm has partnered with Google. “In honor of our launch, get 50 free fax pages / month & unlimited e-signatures,” offers a Google Drive online promo for its new cloud storage solution. HP is in the cloud computing business, too, but its marketing is more tactful because the firm is heavily invested in print as well.
Disrespect and Embroilment
With the graphic designer on the chopping block, I suppose the writer’s head should roll, too. “Save money” is alright and so is “Save time.” But “Save trees.” Ouch! That’s the gut punch that has the paper and printing industries reeling in a tizzy: 1) Because it is simply not true, and 2) Such a statement infers that e-communication is environmentally sustainable, which also is false.
Like me, Gerry Bonetto does not think Google was being malicious in its marketing.“We understand that marketing is a component of all media, but the tree angle is an hellacious argument,” complained Bonetto, PhD and VP of government affairs at the Printing Industries of California, who can spout environmental statistics with the best of them. The bottom line, he said, is that “trees are a sustainable commodity: a crop” that is essentially farmed.
To help educate the general public, PIA’s Southern California affiliate launched the “Choose Print” campaign in January 2011. It is designed, in part, to reinforce the fact that print on paper is recyclable, renewable, and ultimately sustainable. PIASC is the largest local graphic arts trade association in the nation, serving the interests of more than 1,100 member companies. Apparently, most employees at Google headquarters to the north in Mountain View, CA, have not yet seen the www.chooseprint.org website. “We print and mail about 36,000 postcards a month,” noted Bonetto, “and every third one has an environmental message.”