Is that a terrorist threat in your pocket, or are you just glad to be watching an ‘edgy’ cartoon?

This is a tale about a local boy making it big, perhaps too big for his liking. Meet Sam Ewen, who, right now, is probably having a Very Bad Day. Not a Jean Charles de Menezes sort of Bad Day, but I’m sure in his self-inflated head, he thinks it so. Sam is a “guerrilla marketer”, who runs a very mysterious firm called Interference, Inc. Interference is his second venture in the area of hiring desperate actors to debase themselves even more than a stand up showcase, and now has the added fun of the potential for PATRIOT Act charges. Can you say indemnification kids? I bet Sam’s lawyers can.

His previous venture was Eisnor Interactive, a smallish agency with a good rolodex but otherwise of no account. They broke the concept of guerrilla marketing big back in the tail end dot com boom, and were responsible for a whole range of corporately funded sidewalk stencils and other assorted “edgy” advertising. Then they blew up, got bought up and it all flamed out around the time that IBM bought a big bill for using highway grade line paint to dot the LES with Linux penguins. Good times [note, this here is not germane to our story in the least, but I’m hoping for some Google search terms, like “Sam Ewen Terrorist” will result from this. One upside to producing far too long posts is you come to own some really strange search terms. Did you know I’m pretty regularly in the top twenty for ‘look up her skirt‘?].

Interference is very mysterious because their web site has been down since — I’ll assume since right around the time the news broke that Boston was fearing it was suffering a test run for a terrorist attack. But it turns out it was a test run for fun! I bet these aren’t the sort of hijinks they were hoping for when mounting LED displays of what looks like a Space Invader character giving you the finger. Get it? Edgy! Sort of like quoting an army PsyOps field manual on your web site. No wonder they yanked it (well, okay this was the older, less flash-y version).

Why is this a local story? Well, we are very proud when someone who shows creative flair in our provincial, bland, suburban hometown (come on — what passes for edgy these days? Discussion of baby strollers and how anal sex is all the rage? Whoa!) moves up to the big time. Or the big house.

It’s interesting: on the same day the Brits break up a ring suspected of plotting to behead a British solider on tape, the best we can come up with is a “freelance video artist” who is probably being told by massively outclassed Legal Aid attorney that even though his little stunt was conceived, approved of and enthusiastically underwritten by one of the largest media conglomerates around, he better start getting ready to bend really far over. And to hire a lawyer the next time he signs a work for hire agreement from guerrilla marketers.

We will be reminded very often (likely on the CNN website) that he is independent since a very expensive damage control specialist is rolling out a full-bore campaign (that apparently includes scripting news reports for CNN; take a look at the coverage from Fox and the Times if you don’t think someone isn’t feeding the news desk talking points) designed to create a very consistent framework that will further the legal defense being prepped (which will spend a lot of time talking about the nature of their agency agreement), but also shaping the language so that by the time this is all over, my Google string won’t be “TimeWarner terrorist plot foiled” but “sorry ass video artist in Leavenworth”. And as I’m posting this I note that the updated story at the Times mentions our video artist’s site, but strikes references to Interference, which were up just a few hours ago.

This is where the story becomes local. When a SVA student attempts a pretty much standard-fare, poorly considered art project, he gets arrested in hours. You think the FBI is at Richard Parson’s pad right now? Whereas the MTA can probably pull some pretty impressive number about the costs of cleaning trains justifying threatening taggers with jail time, most street art has a nominal cost impact on city life.

Even so, we have often see illogical overreaction to things like the Idiotarod (this weekend) and we have local laws being rewritten because a cop really hates cyclists. None of these people own a news network, so the media discussion treads pretty regularly parrots the talking points of the police and the old man next door demo: “vandalism” and immaturity and whatnot.

The instances where actual measures of damage does occur tends to be better funded and more institutional, like half the Boston police force running around town looking for bombs, the Linux penguins (which weren’t dangerous, just everywhere and expensive to remove),but we never see the threat of jail time, particular those for whom these acts were performed.

Branding and advertising needs to be pervasive to be memorable, since we all instinctively respond to ads and turn away. A singular work of art, or multiples thereof (I love you, anyone? Octopi?) are memorable because we do not suspect a message to buy undergirds it. But when Sony wants to pimp PSP’s we get six thousands stencils of freakish fan boys. (I suspect the 15% creative services fee probably has something do with the carpet bomb approach).

So there will be a gradual tightening again of free speech, when most of what will be used to justify it isn’t actually a threat of any kind, and often the complete obverse. Yet something that gets as out of control as thins, and Richard Parsons won’t even have to stop firing Time employees long enough to apologize. You think at least they will cancel Adult Swim? No chance. Because the ratings are going up this week. Someone is already calculating the potential upside so they have number they can offer the city of Boston, one that will be less than projected revenue. The sad sack, who CNN will keep mentioning over and over (they still haven’t mentioned that Turner is a subsidiary of TW), won’t be named here. Rather, let’s us sing praises to Sam Ewen, local boy, who might very soon be moving into truly edgy advertising opportunities, like Rikers.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.
  • Archives