An Open Letter to 0.7%

Dear 0.7%, Let me say that it is an honour to make your acquaintance! Congratulations on having been chosen as the target percentage of gdp rich countries should send in …

Illustration by Chris Lee, Photograph by Lizzie Vickery

Dear 0.7%,

Let me say that it is an honour to make your acquaintance! Congratulations on having been chosen as the target percentage of gdp rich countries should send in foreign aid to support developing nations. You should be extremely proud of yourself, having beaten out 0.6 and 0.8 by the slimmest of margins—just 0.1. And 0.8 did a very strong audition, performing a number—the musical kind—from The Lion King. But your rendition of “SexyBack” captured the right mood.

Using you as a benchmark for foreign aid is brilliant—what could be easier than wealthy nations contributing 0.7% of their gross domestic product to alleviate the problems of the Third World? But the cold, hard fact, my friend, is that nobody is taking 0.7% seriously. So let me tell you what we have in mind, branding-wise.

For starters, there is the whole math thing. It’s a buzz kill. Who can multiply a number by 0.7 on the fly? And—no offence—you’re not easy to work with, like 10 or 2. Or 100! 100 is golden. But would you read a book called 0.7 Years of Solitude? And, technically, you’re like, 1/100 of 0.7—you’re a series of calculations that can stop a good-hearted impulse in its tracks:

Hey, our gdp is lookin’ good. Let’s flip Somalia something for digging wells or whatever . . . let’s see, 0.7% of $68 billion is . . . (government minister counts on fingers of both hands for thirteen or fourteen minutes) . . . oh, never mind. Let’s go with the guy who sent us those wildlife calendars instead . . .

The other thing is, although you’re offbeat you’re not good-quirky. Ask anyone to pick out an exciting number, and nobody will say “zero-point-seven.” You certainly don’t have the brooding complexity of pi, the lonely mystery of zero, or the loud celebrity of “one million!” Those kind of figures just sell themselves. You’re Wilco playing to the High School Musical crowd.

And what about longevity? I know you’ve been around since 1969, with your big-gun, United Nations birth cred, and that you were part of the UN Millennium Development Goals, a show that had some legs. You were tight with Lester Pearson. Still, it’s hard to see you as a franchise:

Return of the 0.7
2 x 0.7

Do you see what I’m getting at? They all suck. And they’d still suck even if you could get Will Ferrell to play 0.7 as conjoined twins, 0.35 and 0.35. Even taking 10.3 guys out of the cast of Ocean’s Eleven. It doesn’t matter—the sequel titles just kill it.

The number 7 does have some pedigree, so it’s not necessarily the fault of your digits. Nobody has your digits, and I mean that. The trick is to fall on the good side of the marketing equation. Here, you can minimize aligning yourself with, for instance, deadly sins and years it takes to itch, and, at all costs, avoid the dwarf debacle (although Snow White and the 0.7 Dwarves does have a kind of morbid appeal). Instead, to promote you we’ll be leaning more toward wonders of the ancient world, magnificent cowboys, handy convenience stores, and possibly even ambiguous-tasting lemony-limey soft drinks.

What does 007 bring to mind? Lovely ladies and gunplay, that’s what. And 0.7%? Combined with the acronym gdp, with its slight urological overtones? I’m thinking hiv pandemics and abject poverty. Depressing. Maybe instead of being “licensed to kill,” we can position you as being “licensed to save”? Whatever. Clearly, we have to work on it.

I think our best bet might be live performance—something along the lines of Dancing with the Stars, with lots of glitter and skin—in which you compete with some highly visible celebrities looking to add the Third World to their resumés. The idea is 0.7% as the misfit decimal, the little engine that could, just like Jennifer Hudson in Dreamgirls. We’re gonna make them love you!


Bernie Gottfried
Fractional Talent
Los Angeles

David Ng