Status: Faux-rilla marketing campaign
In order to promote its new handheld game player, Sony is paying artists to spray paint fake graffiti on buildings in major cities. (They're also paying the building owners for the right to spray paint the graffiti, which consists of images of spaced-out kids playing with the new handheld device.) But according to an article in Wired
, the fake graffiti has provoked the anger of some city residents, who have spray painted over the images messages such as "Get out of my city," and "Fony." The Wired article points out that this isn't the first time advertisers have created fake graffiti: "In 2001, IBM paid Chicago and San Francisco more than $120,000 in fines and clean-up costs after its advertising agency spray-painted Linux advertisements on the cities' sidewalks." In Hippo Eats Dwarf
I also briefly discuss how The Gap once spray-painted fake graffiti on its store windows. The phenomenon is called faux-rilla marketing (i.e. guerrilla marketing that relies on fake elements).
But I wouldn't put it past Sony to have stage-managed this entire controversy. In other words, Sony could have paid the people who spray-painted the angry messages over the original images. After all, the Sony marketers would have to know that fake graffiti, on its own, isn't much of a story. In fact, most people would never even notice it. But fake graffiti that provokes an angry response is likely to get media attention. This theory occurs to me because the Sony spokeswoman quoted in the article, Molly Smith, sounds a bit too pleased by the angry response the graffiti is provoking:
When asked about the criticism, Smith countered that art is subjective and that both the content and the medium dovetailed with Sony's belief that the PSP is a "disrupter product" that lets people play games, surf the internet and watch movies wherever they want.