You know when something doesn't seem quite right to you? Like hot pants on a bloodhound? Or the chemical makeup of most human beings who live in Marin County, California?
Something didn't seem quite right to me the other day when I watched the campaign ad that purports to tell you why former eBay CEO Meg Whitman will remove some of the tarnish from the Golden State. (You know, the one that forgets to mention she's a Republican.)
It's not that this ad showed Whitman crunking in a nightclub. Or that it showed her showering admiration upon Craigslist. No, this nicely prepared little bag of promises featured the eBay logo, something that temporarily drew my focus away from the Golden State Warriors' latest heroic debacle.
Most companies are very protective about their logos. They control where they are seen, how, and even which of 41 shades of blue might be just the right one.
When it comes to politics, companies are doubly careful. They make sure they donate to both sides. And, even if individuals within the company have certain known political leanings, companies don't generally choose to have their logo in any ads that include the phrase "I approved this message."
So I thought I'd ask eBay whether Whitman had sought approval for the use of the logo and whether its use suggested that the company felt happy being associated with a certain political party.
It took a little while for eBay to think about it before spokesperson Evonne Gomez replied by e-mail: "Meg was eBay's CEO for 10 years. It's not surprising to see our logo and references to the company in her communications. Such use of our logo does not imply any endorsement. As we have said previously, eBay Inc. has not taken a position and does not intend to support any candidate in the California gubernatorial campaign."
Please forgive me if some discomforting thoughts have forced their way past the righteous guardians of my head. And may I preface them by saying that I really don't mind if a Republican, a Democrat, or a Picnic with the Pixies Party person sorts out the sun-kissed Sodom that is my home state?
I understand that Whitman's claim to fame is eBay. Of course she should mention it. But logos are emotive things. And it seems odd that neither she nor eBay felt permission to use it was necessary. Is eBay really saying that it doesn't care that its logo is being incorporated without permission? In a political ad, too.
Would eBay be equally comfortable if, for example, a Picnic with the Pixies candidate showed the company's logo being tossed in the garbage as, say, a symbol of impoverished Californians having to buy questionable goods cheaply on the site rather than in retail stores?
Perhaps some companies really are more relaxed about how and where their logos appear. On the other hand, perhaps the higher echelons at eBay are curiously confident that their former CEO will prove to be California's boss, just as she was once theirs.