Saturday, October 6, 2012

Can you spot the Bluffs in this Facebook ad? Or, how we sold Portland

(scroll down for the ad, it is the last one at the bottom.)

Okay, so I am feeling all disturbed after reading (of all things) the 'Business' section of the oregonian, particularly this article: Facebook turns first to W+K

For those of you who may not know, W+K is the mini-moniker for the Portland hipster advertising agency leviathan Wieden + Kennedy; also known as Wieden and Kennedy, Wieden/Kennedy, Wieden, WK, or in this case, the MAN.

Let me explain: 
Wieden + Kennedy has offices all over the world--Tokyo, London, Shanghai, New York, Delhi--but there are reasons why their central hive is an advertising stronghold located in Portland's Pearl District; an area of town that has become one of the bourgiest little neighborhoods (obnoxiously shortened in recent vernacular to “the Pearl.”) of New Portlandia. 

First off, WK started here. SEcondly, they have their pick of many bright-eyed, bushy-tailed young 'creatives' flocking to the city to exploit for talent for their evil master plan--ahem--I mean, to honor their fresh artistic outlook and style with cold hard cash. It is a badge of honor amongst certain tiers of artists here in Portland to be hired by Wieden Kennedy for their projects. It is one of the most competitively lucrative avenues professional artists can seek--anywhere. And finally, WK somehow manages to fly under the radar of most people I know, working behind the scenes for some of the creepiest corporations on earth. 

Wieden+Kennedy are the media representatives (aka advertising agents) to Starbucks, Coca-Cola, Nike, Levi's, Old Spice, Miller High Life and other awesome companies. In other words, they have loads of money to pile into the bank accounts of their loyal servants. Wieden Kennedy, with its secretive culty elitism, trendy hipster sensibilities, and bucketloads of cash, have all but cornered the market on creative energy in this town. 

I'm sure I will get shit from folks I know, and there are people out there who know way more about WK than I ever will. That's cool. But I am totally freaked out by their habit of buying off young artists, offering up super fancy upwardly-mobile financial packages/career plans at top dollar. The price? Our souls. 

And I'm not even talking about the souls of the artists under their employ—I fear they may already be lost. I'm talking about the rest of us. Which is where facebook comes in.

Wieden+Kennedy will sell you whatever they want, and they mostly do it in a way that honors their target audience of intelligent, young hipsters that like funny shit. Remember this?

This ad still makes me smile, in spite of myself. Millions of people loved this ad so much that they willingly passed it around on facebook. From the website Ranker: "The Old Spice advertising department has not only successfully reinvented their image for a younger generation, but left you with a smile on your face after a TV spot. I mean who watches commercials for fun? Well, now, WE do. Old Spice, we salute you..." 

I am feeling a need to ask other artists--no, PLEAD with you: DON'T DO IT. Please don't sell us out. Please recognize the responsibility you hold in the United States corporate power machine. I know it's hard to make any money, and I know it sucks to be underrecognized. You deserve to be paid well for the magical work of your creations. I know it's easier to latch yourself onto an outside entity that can be blamed for the damage ensuing from the exploitation of your art. But I can see the damage, I can feel it, and I don't like it. I'm an artist like you and I understand why you feel you need to make these choices. But I don't respect you for them.


If they can remake a stodgy old man's scent into something many manly youngsters will eat right up...I shudder to think what this juggernaut of an advertising agency can do with Facebook. But if you're curious:
Wieden + Kennedy teamed up with Facebook a year ago and are just now announcing their partnership, having spent the last year in focus groups, meetings, think tanks (and, likely, liberally perusing our facebook accounts, 'likes', profile pictures, artwork, etc.), on this product--the first ever advertisement for facebook (by facebook):

Part of what terrifies me about this ad (and others like it) is that it was made for me. I know those forests. I know that waterfall! I know those solitary moments of tears, staring into the ambient light of a computer screen (though you don't see any actual screens in the movie because they knew that I wouldn't have liked that). I've just now watched the commercial and I feel chills. I feel moved. I feel manipulated. And I feel very afraid. 

 Facebook is not our friend. I don't propose an alternative, I don't know how to slow the impending avalanche of social networking 'progress', I don't know how to intervene in the ways that I see the values of the people around me changing along with speech patterns, communication habits, social concerns. And I don't have any clever retorts to the claim that Facebook saves lives and starts movements. I know that I have benefited off of facebook as a media outlet. I know that people are getting more and more terrible to each other. I know that advertising media is the soft arm of the law. With the inclusion of Wieden+Kennedy in the mix, that arm is going to get a lot stronger. Anticipate the flexing of a newly honed muscle. It will sound like this:


1 comment:

Dunja said...

holly shit, that facebook add is MEGALOMANIAC.
great overview annie. the thing is, facebook and other social networks do connect people, they spread the ideas and sometimes they do make our lives better in this age of traveling and distance. they know it, and obviously, they use it very well.
i guess, my take on facebook and any other corporate businesses is pretty utopistic: governement should take a huge piece of their profit, more then just taxes, and then disperse it back to people, without whom they wouldn't be able to exist. it sounds childish, because it is practically impossible, but i can't see any other way for things to be fair in this new system of capitalistic globalization.
no living person should have billions of dollars just for themselves. it's just wrong.