Is This Strange Russian Ad With a Man Drowning the Perfect Metaphor for Social Media?

An easier way to help

If you saw a man drowning on social media, would you save him? That's the metaphor at the heart of this bizarre ad for Mainpeople, a new Russian app designed to make charity more central to social media.

In the spot, half a dozen people stand on a dock watching and yammering while some poor guy flails around and swallows half the lake.

The cast of characters nicely skewers a range of clichés—there's the paranoid conspiracy theorist, the smart-ass teenage boy, the cutesy teenage girl, the grown nerd spouting advice and statistics, the smarmy professor praising other countries, the indignant rich woman who blames the government.

Eventually, a sleazy contextual advertiser shows up and elbows his way into the conversation—flanked by two models in bikinis and rubber ducky life preservers (which are pretty awesome, I wouldn't mind having one).

Nobody, though, can be bothered to actually lift a finger to help. And at the end of the parable, it's clear, if not explicitly shown, that the victim actually drowns. (Though, in a clever bit of editing, an alternate reality shows the app quite literally saving him—someone pushes a button on it, and another man pulls him out onto the dock.)

Click the CC button for English subtitles.

The clip is, in a vacuum, amusing, playing on the perhaps too-obvious truth that there's a lot of self-indulgent noise on networks like Facebook (and presumably VK), not to mention in a lot of the conversations anyone's ever had about anything.

As for the apparent point—that people should be talking less and doing more to end suffering, broadly defined—it's hard to argue the merits, but the mechanics are pretty fuzzy. There's already no shortage of opportunities to donate to various causes via Facebook, for those who want them. Mainpeople's website seems to suggest the app will streamline the process, making it easy to donate even when posting about unrelated subjects, and increasing the visibility of posts that come with a contribution (because it's always smart to appeal to everyone's vanity).

The brand's name itself refers to people who are actually doing the heavy lifting of the charity work, and the app is supposed to let lazier types help simply by putting their money where their mouth is.

But even downloading another app seems like a lot of work.


Production: Stereotactic Moscow

Script: Pavel Karykhalin, Michael Lockshin

Director: Michael Lockshin

Directorof Photography: Ivan Lebedev

Executive Producer: Pavel Karykhalin

Producers: Natalie Yurchenko, Lev Maslov

Composer: Oleg Karpachev

@GabrielBeltrone Gabriel Beltrone is a frequent contributor to Adweek.