Trust enterprise software CEO Bill McDermott to pick the right man to lead his marketing. Megalomaniac, eccentric, prone to linguistic sleight of hand and always promising the impossible, Willy Wonka has been selected by ServiceNow as the figurehead of its latest campaign.
Under the slogan, "Digital workflows optimize how things get done for any business, from Wonka's Chocolate Factory to yours," the IT help desk with delusions of grandeur is promising to ruin your childhood memories digital workflows "to connect your people, functions, and systems."
Readers of a certain age will remember Gene Wilder's brilliant interpretation of one of Roald Dahl's most famous characters in the 1971 film, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, perfectly pitched as it was between wide-eyed innocence, maniacal zeal, and something altogether more sinister.
A slightly sanitised version of the character looking out from ServiceNow's homepage has launched marketing campaigns which went live in the US on 26 April. It launches in the UK on 10 May and in Germany on 17 May.
The question is: why was the character picked to be the face of an enterprise software firm when he offers up near limitless potential for unflattering connotations?*
Take, for example, Wonka's treatment of his loyal customers. Encouraging them to out-do each other in consumption in the unlikely event of finding a golden ticket, he then sucks them up through pipes, expands them into giant purple fruit, has them thrown down a garbage chute by trained squirrels, and comically shrinks them with untested teleportation technology. Buyers of business computing might be excused for feeling they too are on the receiving end of myriad creative punishments conjured up by a madman, only to be told in the end it was their own fault.
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Then we come to employment practices. The Chocolate Factory's only workers are the Oompa-Loompas, diminutive orange people apparently rescued by Wonka from the far-off godforsaken Loompa Land. They are happy, Wonka says, to work for a pittance and a few chocolates and never escape from the confines of their place of work. If this seems too close to the bone for vendor-side tech workers, consider employment rights and an utter disregard for health and safety and you get the picture. To add insult to injury, Wonka then looks outside for future leadership, picking someone with no industry experience, and ignoring the fact that his long-suffering employees know how to run the place better than anyone but Wonka himself.
Perhaps we're over-thinking this, but Dahl's wider themes of the perils of unfettered greed, gluttony, entitlement, media obsession, and obsessive self-regard are, in the case of the technology industry, kinda difficult to ignore.
In fact, the Chocolate Factory has already been brought into play by this publication's own writers for more than a decade, as it is the perfect analogy to Google's many hair-brained schemes and jolly-on-the-outside/sinister-on-the-inside reputation. The lesson is, no matter how well-paid and powerful you may be in the tech industry, it always pays to read The Reg. ®