[-empyre-] empyre: circumventing and disrupting norms in art and in advertising

Renate Ferro rtf9 at cornell.edu
Sun Nov 8 06:37:11 EST 2009

Thanks Tim for mentioning the media theorist, Bernard Steigler’s, writing
on the virulent unstoppable market of a web of data that we acknowledge
today is often times subliminally positioned within the proliferation of

In “Viral Economy” Baudrillard writes about biological virus, terrorism,
the stock market, company takeovers and specifically art as contagious.
art, which is now everywhere subjected to the problem of the fake, the
authentic, the copy, the clone, the simulation-a veritable contagion that
de-stabilizes aesthetic values, causing them to lose their immunity as
well- and simultaneously undergoing the delirious, speculative bidding
wars of the art market.  It is no longer a market in fact; it is a
centrifugal proliferation of value that corresponds exactly to the
metastases of a body irradiated by dough.”

While over the next four weeks we will highlight the art-practices of
those who circumvent, disrupt and critique the data streams of the
virulent art market and those of advertising messages, images, videos and
all the rest, I’ve linked a few historical marketing campaigns whose
high-profile advertising agencies circumvented and disrupted old norms of
image mass-marketing. These advertising messages were crafted to be
personal and contemporary and were most times directed at specialized,
targeted audiences. At first glance these messages were not obvious as
advertisements using gaming strategies, animation, avatars, You Tube,
Flickr, blogging, among many others.   In all cases advertisers banked on
the fact that their target customer would share the information with her
own social networks.  And indeed it worked.

One of the early examples of this appropriation from 2001 is Burger King’s
Subservient Chicken.  While based on a series of television ads the
online, viral marketing campaign was disguised as an interactive gaming
site featuring a person in a chicken suit who interactively playacts the
viewers typed directives out as if they were both at home playing a
charades like game.  Other segments of the online site feature a casino
game and a chicken mask you can construct and wear. The campaign was so
successful it ran until 2007.


Cadbury’s Gorilla campaign was disguised as a music video in 2007. 
Launched on You Tube after the company was facing huge losses due to a
batch of salmonella tainted chocolate.  The You Tube video received 50,000
hits during the first week of viewing.


The Total Blender ads are featured on an internet site as infomercials for
the entry level Blendtec Blender.   Disguised as science fair lab
experiments that you should not perform in your own home the ongoing
series has blended everything from laser pointers and silly putty to an I
phone. The other side of the site provides a variety of items that are
safe to blend at home such as coffee and chicken soup.

My favorite blends glow sticks.


While introduced on You Tube the phrase Will it blend? has become an
internet meme. The Blendtec Company now not only sells their blenders but
merchandise based on the infomercial’s star and originator, Tom Dickson. 
Dickson himself has become a celebrity in his own right appearing on late
night TV and the history channel. The site as of June of this past year
boasted of 83,238,033 views, an average of 967,884 views.

The Viral Factory is notorious for using mockumentary film or computer
generated animation and viral seeding for advertising a promotion. They
have even emulated pornography as in their animation for Diesel, the
London based clothing firm who was celebrating their thirtieth birthday.
“We created a film titled SFW XXX to globally celebrate Diesels 30th
birthday. The charming viral featured clips from a raft of 80s porn films
that we cunningly censored with humorous CGI. Diesel consumers should
continue to expect the unexpected”.
Don’t watch this one with your kids around!


On that note I’ll say good-bye for now.  Renate

Renate Ferro
Visiting Assistant Professor
Department of Art
Cornell University, Tjaden Hall
Ithaca, NY  14853

Email:   <rtf9 at cornell.edu>
Website:  http://www.renateferro.net

Co-moderator of _empyre soft skinned space

Art Editor, diacritics

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