Adbusters adbusted?

Tonight I was wandering in Manchester city centre as one does when suddenly, a projection appeared on the side of the City Tower in Piccadilly Gardens. Since I’m not in the habit of carrying a camera/tripod with me on my strolls, I had only my mobile phone to take a quick snap. It’s slightly hard to see, but there’s a projection of a few pawprints and the text “Felix for Mayor”.

On returning home, I went online to see if anyone else had noticed what was going on. Searching for the slogan “Felix for Mayor” brought up someone’s flickr page with a picture of some advert in what I think is the London edition of Metro. It turns out that this is a publicity stunt by Purina, the multinational corporation responsible for the well known pet food brands Go-Cat, Bakers Complete, Felix as well as my favourite Bonio, no doubt after the eponymous character in Romeo and Juliet’s raunchier sequel.

The spontaneity and slightly cobbled together advert reminded me a little bit of so called culture jamming. For those who aren’t in the know (like myself until Le Fox kindly filled me in), culture jamming is the process of subverting corporate brands to expose various perceived social injustices. Most culture jammers don’t seek to make any sort of profit and so can be seen as somewhere between part time artists and activists, promoting various often radical social perspectives through guerrilla-art. They could perhaps be thought of as media hackers who seek to bring what they think of as balance to capitalism’s constant stream of advertising.

Tonight’s event was part of a wider program of organised publicity stunts presumably to give the Felix brand a bit of a boost. While adbusting relies on twisting carefully planned and widely established corporate brand images to deliver high impact messages, it would seem that the the quirkiness and spontaneity characterising guerrilla art has been hijacked by a corporation. The social and political messages of culture jamming have been changed into an meaningless and inane phrase supplementing adverts in traditional media.

Seeing this, it occurred to me: has Purina managed to culture jam the notion of culture jamming itself? It would seem that it has.

Some links:

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