Friday, January 11, 2008

Smoked Out

The current television ads for the "voice - have your say" program for the youth-centric media project with the subheading "Indiana Tobacco Prevention and Cessation" show a young person engaged in tactical media activism who is taking part in a staged event against the tobacco industry by showing body bags at a demonstration. Although the website seems to feature culture jamming language and opposition to the dominant advertising paradigm, there are also certain clues that consumerism is the expected form of behavior.

Some of the copy reads:

Lots of companies out there are targeting us. Roxy, Quiksilver, Powerade, Gap, BMX, Vana and Phat Farm. Heck, so is McDonalds, Taco Bell (we know there is some sketchy meat there) and other chains. Simply put though. Using these products, putting them on WON'T KILL YOU.

Although "sketchy meat" is clearly not an endorsement, this website does insert brand names into its social marketing message in ways that validate those enterprises. And activists who have come out against fast food pitches and labor practices involved with the clothing industry probably don't appreciate the way that they are dismissed as harmless. Headings like "cool stuff" and the promise of free downloads also seem calculated to legitimate the attitudes of marketers about the allegedly impressionable young.

Overall, the website indicates a certain incoherence of mission. Obviously this and other state campaigns in Colorado, Iowa, and Washington have been influenced by the supposedly edgy style of "The Truth" social marketing campaign from the trendy Miami-based ad agency Crispin Porter + Bogusky, which is currently featuring a nonsensical viral "Squirt Alert." Many of these sites also emphasize the availability of free swag as a selling point.

For more on tactical media activism (without its appropriations) see Geert Lovink's new Zero Comments, which is also a critique of Web 2.0.



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