This is one of those woolly posts about something not too many people care about.
I’m not against corporations or capitalism; I just feel that if we don’t pay attention to what they are doing, we get unintended consequences: like lethal food or very deep “recessions.”
Corporate promotion, marketing, and advertising is a super-fast-growing ivy that promises to cover every surface if left unpruned. Many of the zoning laws we now take for granted are a direct result of this actually happening in the mid to late 1800’s, when cheap printing technologies made wall-to-wall advertising possible.
In many contexts we may even admire its beauty or at least its cleverness, boldness, and – if nothing else – its dogged determination to direct our eyes and our dollars.
But there are lines that shouldn’t be crossed.
One of the most obvious would seem to be the commons (I said this would get woolly): public areas we all share that are historically and by law (in most cases) free of such distractions. In my city, these rules are codified and rather strict… for example, if you have a banner for a public event the sponsor of that event can only occupy 20% or less of it; the city determines the size of your logo in public areas.
As technology and innovation progress, these questions will become more important.
The holographic fashion model that greets me by name at The Gap (ala Minority Report), would, hopefully, be an unwelcome addition to a walk in Central Park. Unfortunately, I think the responsibility for keeping the slope less slippery belongs to us.
Case in point: the new Domino’s “American Legends” promotion.
Here’s a video I took with my celly right around the way from me:
An entire city block (it’s hard to see in the crappy video, sorry) now has the Domino’s logos stenciled on it, in an offhand, supposedly “underground,” done-in-in-dark-of-night “bombing” (that’s graf-speak) of public space by a major corporation.
Judging from Domino’s own promotion of this, these “tags” now grace the public real estate of several major cities and are linked into a promotion of a new product.
But wait, it gets even more complicated that that!
Dominos has (according to its official twitter feed @dominos) “covered its bases” by the fact that this isn’t graffiti at all… it’s REVERSE graffiti!
Yep … take a look one at of the guys they are stealing this from:
Oh, you don’t get it yet?
He’s CLEANING the surface… the “graf” is the part where there is less soot.
A great innovation… great for graf artists (VERY difficult to prosecute, for obvious reasons). How creative and challenging is that? Cool riiight!!?
I’m not so fussy that I think these guys “own” the new technique, but it does raise interesting issues about our visual environment.
So back to Dominos. They have found a clever and novel (albeit stolen from real street artists) way to “bomb” our cities with big-ass logos promoting their new pizzas. They are doing it in the public commons.
In response to my questions about this, @dominos said that if they “get complaints” (and they supposedly haven’t yet) they will “wash the entire sidewalk.”
Personally, I’d like to see that.
I also wondered what the city thought of their “potentially controversial” (Domino’s own description) promotion.
So I complained.
Not to them, but to the city. As most things go with city government, it will take them a while to get back to me … but they will.
What’s your opinion of all this?
Does the novelty excuse this (clearly if they had used spray paint they’d be in deep trouble)? Are you personally bothered by attempts to invade areas that are traditionally “ad free” by corporations, or am I just a big hippy? Does merely WRITING a blog like this break the unspoken fidelity we are supposed to have to our wonderful corporations in America in 2009?
And most importantly (to me at least), if we don’t care… why not?
PS. This page will be updated when my complaint to NYC is replied to. Feel free to use the link above or call 311 to do the same if you agree with my position. If you are interested in seeing more REAL “green” graffiti please see the beautiful images and videos here.