Monday, February 05, 2007

Eleven Things To Think About When Thinking About The Aqua Teen Hunger Force Bomb Scare

What is the Absurd? It is, as may quite easily be seen, that I, a rational being, must act in a case where my reason, my powers of reflection, tell me: you can just as well do the one thing as the other, that is to say where my reason and reflection say: you cannot act and yet here is where I have to act... The Absurd, or to act by virtue of the absurd, is to act upon faith ... I must act, but reflection has closed the road so I take one of the possibilities and say: This is what I do, I cannot do otherwise because I am brought to a standstill by my powers of reflection.

- Soren Kierkegaard, Journals (1849)

For Camus... People may create meaning in their own lives, which may not be the objective meaning of life, but still provides something for which to strive. However, he insisted that one must always maintain an ironic distance between this invented meaning and the knowledge of the absurd lest the fictitious meaning take the place of the absurd.

- Wikipedia entry for "Absurdism"

  1. Guerrilla marketing is a symptom of corporate arrogance. Graffiti is a symptom of social powerlessness.
  2. Why do graffiti artists feel powerless? See Kierkegaard.
  3. Marketers choose guerrilla marketing strategies for two reasons: to save money, and to suggest to the general public that the products of multi-billion-dollar corporations run by boards of directors and shareholders are actually ruled by rebellious young people.
  4. Companies which engage in guerilla marketing tactics are rarely penalized beyond the direct cost of their actions. This makes it very cost-effective advertising, which makes boards of directors and shareholders happy. I have heard the figure of $750,000 cited by the Boston police. This is very cheap advertising considering the stunt's impact.
  5. Why doesn't acting like rebellious young people damage corporations' credibility in financial markets? See Camus.
  6. The term "guerrilla," - "little war" - has its origins in small groups of Spaniards who resisted Napoleonic rule in the early 1800s. The advertising community found this term attractive for two reasons, one explicit and one subconscious. The explicit connotation, the one they know they like, is that they resist control by moving more quickly and fluidly than the power structure can, because they are not constrained by the power structure's logistics and its rules of war, and thus slip through its fingers and live to fight another day. The subconscious reason is that guerrilla marketing is an act of violence against the very modest checks against the absolute privatization of our public space to have survived the last thirty years. Since corporations are a dominant force in our world, the explicit reason is a perfect example of marketing double-speak, and the implicit reason is the one that has caused it to stick.
  7. The Wooster Collective reports on Stephen Brown's recent art project in Germany: "In front of the town's City Hall on the main square, Steven built a stone hearth each night for 10 days (Jan 14-23 2007). He simply built and burned a fire from sunset until midnight. Each night people stopped by and lingered and shared stories. There was no press and word spread the old-fashioned way. Slowly, there became a regular base of people who came every night to interact (and often bring the artist food and drink)."
  8. How would the Boston Police Department have responded to this project?
  9. How do this project and the Aqua Teen Hunger Force guerrilla marketing campaign differ in terms of their engagement with the public, with public space? Does one respect its audience more than the other? Should the intended effect, and the project's motivations, be considered in evaluating and responding to the work?
  10. How many different brands can you think of that could turn Brown's project into an effective guerrilla marketing campaign with a linked series of network television commercials? Think beyond Duraflame and fireplace bricks. What brand of beer would you sell with this stunt? What brand of clothing? What kind of car?
  11. How do you feel about having so many billboards in your head? Where's the real guerrilla marketing taking place? See Camus.


Joshua said...

I'm not certain that the mere commercial nature of guerilla marketing matters -- or rather, the commercial here is an integral part of the artistic (see Warhol.)

Young people respond to these campaigns because they are pranks, aimed at an unsuspecting audience that can never understand the marketing content.

Is a corporation taking advantage of young, rebellious artists or are young, rebellious artists taking advantage of a corporation?

More importantly, the work of young rebellious artists (whether guerilla marketeers or graffit artists) is treated as a form of terrorism while full sized billboards (including digital billboards which impair drivers' sight) are protected by the First Amendment and the power of the police.

Does guerilla marketing not, then, serve as another grenade thrown at the hopelessly clueless Baby Boom generation, which is wholly unequipped to understand either phenomenon as anything but crime?

Are Martha Coakley and Tom Menino conspiring to destroy art or are they merely trying to find a way to ease the public humiliation brought on by their senseless reaction to an obvious, non-threatening marketing stunt?

As for your question about he marketing potential of the public artist in Germany -- I think there's a reasonable example of just such a thing already taking place on the airwaves. A series of aids of facial tissue (probably Kleenex, but I'm not certain) in which a man places a couch on the sidewalk and encourages people to sit down and talk about their most touching moments, hoping they will cry and require the use of the tissue he is providing. Such a "stunt" is hardly cutting edge art, but it would be right at home in the era of the happenings. Now it is just another form of advertising, which is to say another form of aesthetics.

Frederick said...

Wow. You just earned yourself a return customer.