Editor's Choice

Cultural-jamming as guerrilla marketing

Metafilter linked to this interview with Andrea Natella, director of Guerrigliamarketing.it, which (I think) pursues culture jamming under the auspices of being an advertising agency. The translation isn't great, but as far as I can tell, the idea behind this is either that ads have become their opposite, or that resistance to ads has become a latter-day form of advertising in itself. (I prefer the far more cynical second interpretation.) In Natella's own words: "Guerrigliamarketing.it was born out of a bet. Is it possible to imagine modalities of radical participation on the universe of brands and at the same time present oneself as an advertising agency? Is it possible for the professionals of communication not to give up their own political ideas in carrying out their job?"

What happens when you make "resistance to marketing" your brand? Is that some sort of parallax approach to advertising? Can you converse in the discourse of brands without tacitly endorsing it? Doing Wacky Package-style art seems to vindicate the power of brands rather than subvert it. I guess I am skeptical of the whole "culture jamming" concept, which seems less like Situationist detournement than borderline-cruel pranksterism (sort of like Improv Everywhere). I know it is supposed to "make us think", but culture jamming often ends up mocking the consumers it purportedly wants to win over.

It strikes me that a strategy of less clever nuisances might be more effective in slowing the juggernaut of thoughtless consumption. When an effort is made to mitigate the inconvenience that inevitably arises from monkeying with the retail market with what can be taken as hipster humor, it alienates the discomfited even further. That makes the subversion of culture jamming into advertising a weird sort of dialectic that ends up vindicating consumers, if you believe Natella, anyway: "What we try to do is to increase the awareness that true value is produced by the consumers." This is a familiar theme in cultural studies, that consuming culture is an underappreciated form of production -- users innovate new techniques to use things, and produce signs and cultural capital with regard to what cultural goods mean. But that doesn't mean marketing is ultimately benign; it just suggests that its modality is depressingly easy for laypeople to adopt. The value we produce is often something that marketers most appreciate; it is our doing their job for them. So while Natella touts the more obvious capacity of guerrilla marketing to be confrontational -- "We made people think that in order to sell a company [the agency] is ready to do anything, also on the border of illegality. We tried to confuse these borders" -- the more radical implication is that we are all being drafted as guerrilla-marketing recruits without especially realizing it. Marketing has so saturated culture -- with people adopting the discourse of branding, with online activity being tracked and parsed by companies to serve ads, with people embracing hype as a conversational strategy, and so on -- that we produce ads simply by virtue of living our lives.

(Incidentally, do not follow the link to thisman.org. It will haunt your nightmares.)

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.