On Sundays, Gothamist publishes opinion pieces by its contributors and friends. The opinions expressed in this piece belong only to the author, who, in this case, is me.
I've written about this so many times on Gothamist that I'm worried about sounding like a broken record-- but apparently the big corporations have not gotten the message. This week, Sony Playstation graffiti pieces have been popping up like cancer all over Manhattan. The pieces are sometimes drawn by hand-- others are wheat pasted to walls all over SoHo and NoLIta. It's clearly a large campaign, and deserves a thoughtful, measured response. Here's mine: corporate graffiti sucks. Sucks! Sucks! Sucks! It sucks for a variety of specific reasons:
1. It's exploitive: the local streetartists that are hired to paint these pieces risk arrest, and it's almost guaranteed that Sony's ad agency won't be bailing them out if they get popped. When a major corporation hires poor artists to commit a crime (and let's be honest, even if they are painting on legal walls, often times the cops don't care), that's majorly exploitive. That's terrible, SONY.
2. It's fake. It's possible that some children will confuse these pieces for actual graffiti, but most adults will see them for what they are: advertising. Appropriating the authenticity of streetart to promote a product is totally lame. Some marketing agencies might try to position these campaigns as "cool" or "real" or whatever, but don't believe them, Mr. Major Corporate Executive. The 24 to 36 year old demographic you covet so much knows the difference, and we are not fooled.
3. It's deceptive: if you are going to do this stuff, at least have the balls to sign the ads, SONY, so people know who to blame. Of course, that would undermine your fakery, so it's probably not going to happen. Lying to people to promote a product is wrong! wrong! wrong!
4. It is not positive brand association. What do we mean? Well, take a look at the Sex in the City campaign recently done on the streets of SoHo-- notice how bad these things look after they get smeared with dog shit? Think about how your precious PSP posters and pieces are going to look when they start getting buffed, crossed-out, and covered with the clever commentary "SONY PSP SUCKS DICK!" etc. That is most definitely not something you will want to see, and you will have absolutely no control over it. I give it at most three weeks before most of this stuff starts to look really bad.
5. Neighborhoods don't like it. It's bad enough that we have to put up with all the regular corporate advertising in our neighborhoods. You've got ads on bus stops and telephone booths and walls and billboards and on our TVs and in our magazines and newspapers. Do you really need another avenue to sell your product? Let it go!
6. It's illegal. Microsoft and HBO have already been fined for these campaigns. SONY, you are most definitely next. Even if the cost of the fines is built into the campaigns, having all those articles written about how you are breaking the law-- that can't be good for your corporate reputation.
In conclusion: please cut this crap out. Quit it! [Related: WoosterCollective has a variety of opinions on the campaign, and also captured a shot of some artists working for SONY in action. And someone has gone ahead and made the Corporate Vandals Not Welcome sticker.]
Jake Dobkin is the publisher of Gothamist. From 1992-5 he wrote graffiti under the tag "JUGZ ICF". From 1997-9, he created street stencils. Since 2000, he's been documenting streetart at Bluejake and Streetsy.