November 18, 2011

Occupy is not a Frickin' Maybelline Ad

Maybelline kissing cop

Women pepper sprayed 2
You know what’s messed up?

It’s when a cosmetics company turns a populist and embattled movement for economic justice into giggly, jiggly mind-numbing hamburger for the sake of peddling lip balm.  For Occupy Wall Street to be successful, it seems another critical front that needs to be opened up is: Occupy Madison Avenue. If not, the visual thinkers, buzz appropriators and cultural reverse-engineers driving the advertising and PR industries will continue to co-opt the symbols and “mental culture” of a largely gullible population in order to keep it consuming, craving and otherwise anesthetized. (There is no better reminder of the need to break down this engine then to realize that OWS, as an intellectual force, was inspired by a corporate culture-jamming outfit called Adbusters.)

Attempting to escape the news the other day for at least a couple hours, I was snuck up on by an ad at the movies for Maybelline. (I’m still pissed off that commercials have invaded the theater at all — but that’s another story.) What immediately jumped out at me was how much the ad appropriated the energy, youthfulness and visual trappings of Occupy.  What I’ve done here — to accentuate the contrast between the movement, and this glossy siphoning of the movement — is to juxtapose scenes from the Maybelline video with news photos, all but one of which was taken yesterday, of activities marking OWS’s two month anniversary and expressing the frustration over mass evictions suffered by the movement this week.

The lyrics to the video soundtrack, by the way? “Things are getting better, things are getting better, things are getting better every day.”
Maybelline Baby Lips protest Subway

James Estrin OWS 11 17 11

Maybelline protest bridge

Heisler Bridge Protest OWS 11 17 11


Maybelline Park protest

Tearing down tents Zuccotti


UPDATE/CORRECTION: I just exchanged emails with Steve Hall from Adrants.  Steve points out an important fact that I somehow missed.  That is, that the video is a little over a year old.  I apologize for the intimation that the ad was new and specifically designed to co-opt the Occupy movement.

That said, however (and this is probably the reason I didn’t pick up on the date), isn’t it curious I saw this in the theatre just a couple days ago? I imagine these ad people are savvy enough to see the opportunity/resonance today even if they had this sitting on the shelf — especially after the engagement with the police on the Brooklyn Bridge catapulted OWS to the big time. (And, how sexy/similar is this?) Seems remarkable the ad people wouldn’t think they had something suddenly very hot especially given the scenes in the video they did on the bridge.  To the extent I misled anyone or caused incorrect conclusions to be drawn against anyone in the visual industrial complex, my bad (this time).

UPDATE 2: Just read a comment at our FB site from someone else who just saw the video in a theater.  He writes: “(T)he version I saw was re-edited (from the version in that link) to be more relevant to today’s audience. ie. no horsing around on the runway/in the studio footage was included.”

Before writing the post, I looked high and low for the version I saw in the theater and couldn’t find it, but from my recollection of the movie ad, too, some of the flouncier non-protest stuff was removed. I have a snap or two from the theatre version that is more protest-oriented and includes at least one scene (above) of a model slapping a poster on a car. In the original, it wasn’t this emphasized or edgy.  If anyone has the chance to see the video in the theater and can bootleg a copy, or if you have access to the re-edited version of the original,  I’d be interested in analyzing it.

Video – Maybelline Baby Lips commercial.

(photo 1: Randy L. Rasmussen/AP/The Oregonian caption: A police officer uses pepper spray on an Occupy Portland protestor at Pioneer Courthouse Square in Portland Ore., Thursday, Nov. 17, 2: James Estrin/The New York Times caption: Protesters passed out leaflets on the subway as they traveled to Foley Square for an evening rally. photo 3: Todd Heisler/The New York Times caption: (Occupy protesters) were joined by union workers on the Brooklyn Bridge. photo 4: Angela Radulescu caption: Police began tearing down the Occupy encampment. “I don’t want to leave,” protester Ben Swenson, 25, said, according to the Daily News. “It’s about social justice, equality, even rights.”. photo 5: Andrew Burton/Getty Images caption: Brendan Watts is beaten on the ground by police officers in Zuccotti Park on November 17, 2011 in New York City. A fight broke out between protestors affiliated with Occupy Wall Street and police, in which Watts was injured.)

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Michael Shaw
See other posts by Michael here.

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