JWT Helps Venezuelans Safely Barter Goods as the Nation’s Economy Craters
A look at the #SocialMarket campaign
by: Gabriel Beltrone
published: April 6, 2017
As Venezuela grapples with severe political, economic and humanitarian crises, one local government is using social media in its efforts to keep citizens safe while they barter for much-needed staple goods.
J. Walter Thompson helped the Baruta municipality, part of the capital city Caracas and home to more than 300,000 people, to launch #MercadoSocial (#SocialMarket) in an effort to arrange person-to-person exchanges of food and other basic necessities, under the supervision of the borough.
A promotional campaign including online ads and bus posters that encouraged citizens to tweet messages like “I have oil, I need sugar” with the hashtag, and then meet up to trade them at an official exchange points, to avoid fraud and security concerns.
Venezuela’s black market has flourished, and its crime rate has spiked, as the economy has tanked. The country is in its third year of deepening recession, mired in the result of years of mismanagement by the national government, while the population suffers a brutal toll, with ongoing shortages of items like rice, flour, milk, aspirin, acetaminophen and cooking oil, not to mention rampant political repression and human rights violations.
With prices spiking and pittance incomes, some parents are giving away their children to those better able to care for them.
Given the scale and complexity of the macroeconomic problems crushing the country, Baruta’s efforts can’t but seem somewhat meager—the proverbial Band-Aid on the axe wound. (The New York Times editorial board, for its part, is pleading with the international community to persuade Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro to accept humanitarian aid, resume local elections and release political prisoners.)
In that context, JWT’s case-study video could seem myopic and self-serving. At the same time, any local solution that speaks to the immediate needs of desperate people—the agency claims more than 1,300 barters took place as a result of the first round of the campaign, and a second is in the works by popular demand—is worth pursuing aggressively.
Maybe the shop should also emulate BBH and MullenLowe in years past by skipping award-show submissions or the purchasing of extra statues—and instead spend the cash on feeding hungry people.