Going Underground - Anarchic Advertising and PR | ...Gasp!

Going Underground

Anarchic Advertising and PR

In many ways the dark allure of underground is the perfect place for some anarchic advertising to spring up. Across time, it’s been the natural haunt of the marginalised and supressed. A place to plot rebellion, to begin the fight back, and a place for the vulnerable to seek refuge.

We hope that people will question a system that has them working ever more hours for ever squeezed wages – while the only people with any breathing space are the 1 percent.

Commuters on the London Underground would have seen these unauthorised adverts on their first day back to work last week, which were put up to highlight the large number of meaningless, uninspiring jobs. The Special Patrol Group (SPG) claimed responsibility, a group who are most likely the militant wing of altruist-anarchist publishers Strike! Magazine. Inspired by the writings of David Graeber on ‘Bullshit Jobs’, one of their main aims was:

We hope that people will question a system that has them working ever more hours for ever squeezed wages – while the only people with any breathing space are the 1 percent.

It led me to recall an awful temping job I had some 13 years ago. I worked 4-10pm, at an insurance firm, alongside a permanent evening shift work force of 4. Some had been there years. In a large open plan office, our job was simply to spend 6 hours putting back all the files that the brokers etc had used that day, but could not be bothered to put back themselves! On several levels a complete waste of time, a little demeaning and indicative of corporate arrogance and self-importance. And the pay was awful.

With this campaign, Strike! tapped into the national psyche and timed the subversive attack perfectly, to create maximum coverage of a serious issue.

In more commercial realms, I read this article about the craft beer brewers BrewDog, who are seen in some quarters as controversial, and their run-ins with the beer authorities are well documented. BrewDog just strike me as genuine individuals whose personality pervades through their product and who are naturally defending their ethos and brand, rather than it being any contrived PR tactic (they are on record as stating that they hate traditional advertising). But for sure, a brush with authority can work wonders for your exposure.

Our Creative Director Giles actually met the entertaining guys from Manifest a while back (the agency who handle BrewDog’s PR), at the premiere of The Drum's film on Shockvertising. They regaled the audience with the story behind this perfect retort from BrewDog to the Portman Group. It seems that the beer industry in the UK is bullied and bossed by the big hitting breweries, so BrewDog quite simply don’t take any shit, and they’ve certainly elbowed some big boys in the ribs and carved out a unique niche for their product, which is thriving.

The marketing charlatans Rantic, on the other hand (who may well be the pimp selling ‘clicks’ in this advert from adobe), whilst not anarchic in a good way, can certainly be seen as trouble-makers. They recently took on Anonymous with an alleged hashtag hijacking, and last year created a fake site, purported to show naked images of a famous celebrity, all in the name of defending privacy and researching ‘click bait’, but certainly promoting themselves at the same time.

It was a stunt that lead to some observers calling them “morally bankrupt.” They certainly seem to have a dubious reputation, and there are certain things you just cannot do, if you want to retain integrity.

At Gasp we did do a cool Guerilla Marketing campaign that consisted of dropping lots of golf balls in people’s gardens, which is currently the height of our marketing mischief. We probably need to listen to more punk and go and read more Graeber if we are ever going to actually do something truly anarchic.

Although, we did recently do a pitch for a campaign aimed at raising awareness of the cuts in funding by the government for a new drug in the treatment of pancreatic cancer. It was a drug that makes a cancer sufferer’s last few months more bearable, and extends life. MP’s questionable, lavish spending whilst preaching austerity was one element we explored, as it needed to be hard hitting and almost seditious in tone.

So maybe 2015 will see more revolution and anarchy from Gasp. Although, knowing my personal bravery levels at least, we may not progress much further than this.

Down with this sort of thing.

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