Seeking to market its handheld game device to hip city dwellers, Sony
has hired graffiti artists in major urban areas to spray-paint
buildings with simple, totemic images of kids playing with the gadget.
But the guerrilla marketing gambit appears to be drawing scorn from
some of the street-savvy hipsters it's striving to win over.
Coming on the heels of widely publicized news that Sony music CDs
infected customers' computers with security-hole-inducing spyware, the
campaign for the PlayStation Portable is being derided on the internet
as an attempt to buy the credibility of street art.
* Story Images
Click thumbnails for full-size image:
After inserting the word 'Fony' into the ad, this commenter says he or
she would rather ride a geeky, foldable British bicycle or do obscene
things to a mime than buy a Sony product. Two kids savoring their Sony
PSPs overlook San Franciscans entering and exiting the heart of the
city on a new highway ramp at Market and Octavia streets.An anonymous
neighbor writes over a Sony ad on the side of a Mission corner
store.Wheat-pasted Sony advertisements outside Zeitgeist, a popular
motorcylist bar in San Francisco, are labeled 'Advertising directed at
your counter culture.'
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* Street Art Goes Global, Online
* Discover more Net Culture
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In San Francisco, critics have expressed their disapproval by adding
some spray paint of their own to the Sony ads. On a wall outside a beer
garden in San Francisco's bohemian Mission District that caters to
motorcyclists and bike messengers, someone spray-painted over every
character, adding the commentary, "Advertising directed at your
Outside Casa Maria, a small Mission bodega, someone wrote, "Get out of
my city," added the word "Fony" to the graffiti and penned a four-line
ditty slamming Sony.
Other cities targeted in the campaign include New York, Chicago,
Atlanta, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and Miami, according to Sony
spokeswoman Molly Smith.
The advertising, based on original artwork commissioned by Sony's ad
agency, features a collection of dizzy-eyed urban kids playing with the
PSP as if it were a skateboard, a paddle or a rocking horse, but
doesn't include the word Sony or PSP anywhere.
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.
"With PSP being a portable product, our target is what we consider to
be urban nomads, people who are on the go constantly," Smith said.
Floyd Hayes, the head creative director at Cunning Work, which
specializes in nontraditional marketing campaigns such as promoting a
Sci-Fi Channel TV show about the Bermuda triangle through reward signs
(.jpg) for a missing sock, doesn't disapprove of the campaign, though
he thinks the seemingly hypnotized kids in the artwork might send the
wrong message about the PSP's thrill factor.
But Hayes doesn't think Sony has crossed any lines with the faux street
art. "Sony and PSP have every right to use this type of media," Hayes
said. "They have done it for (a) very long time very successfully and
spoke the language of the streets without being patronizing."
Piers Fawkes, who runs the IF blog that focuses on new currents in
marketing, also liked the campaign.
"It's a cheeky wink toward a savvy audience who are already familiar
with the product," Fawkes said. "It's reflective of modern approach to
marketing. The creative classes are sick of marketing when done badly
or blandly, but when it's done in (an) intelligent manner, we
Fawkes questioned whether the backlash was very widespread.
"I wonder if that's a San Francisco phenomenon," Fawkes said. "I know
there's certain mindset there."
Sony isn't the first corporation to use graffiti and stencils to market
its products. 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.
Unlike IBM, however, Sony says it's paying businesses and building
owners for the right to graffiti their walls.
Casa Maria was paid $100 for two weeks' use of its wall, according to
co-owner Mario Arana.
"Goro" <(E-Mail Removed)> wrote in news:1133816946.448606.43120
> Is there anything they won't do?
You mean other than pull their heads out of their rears?