Saturday, November 19, 2011

Occupy Us!

It is said that good advertising anticipates -- and acknowledges -- social trends. [Apple's "Think Different" campaign comes to mind.] But bad advertising? Clueless. Consider Bank of America's new "Together, we are the 100%" campaign, which tries to monetize Occupy Wall Street's anti-greed movement, if not simply "re-image" the bank, which is under fire for improper foreclosures and hiking debit card fees.

The bank kicked off the new campaign earlier this month and promoted it on Thursday -- Occupy Wall Street's nationwide Day of Action, which successfully orchestrated protest marches across the country to celebrate the movement's two-month annniversary. BofA's ads are part of the bank's new image campaign that began in September across 12 of the bank's larger U.S. markets, including New York City. Says Bank spokesman T.J. Crawford: "The campaign aims to deliver the facts about Bank of America's local impact. Sharing the work we do and the critical role we play is more important than ever."

But many Occupy supporters are not impressed. Influential BoingBoing co-editor Zeni Jardin yesterday shared some Twitpics of the bilingual ads (including those above), and the images went viral. "I find BofA's new 100% ads positively revolting," she tweeted to a chorus of hundreds of RTs and thousands of thumbs-ups in the Twittersphere.

BOA isn't the only company trying to leverage the "Occupy US" theme locally. Major World, one of the nation's largest used car dealerships, launched a series of 60-second radio spots last week that invite listeners to "occupy us" for the "best deals on used cars in the nation." A spokesman for the Queens-based dealership said today the company has received "dozens of calls" from potential customers since the ads were placed but declined to characterize the feedback.

Okay, it's a used car dealership. But it is unlikely Major's and BofA's ads will be the last Occupy-themed campaigns to launch. Marketing sources across the financial sector have told Cause Global that OWS isn't just changing the political conversation; it's also re-shaping the focus of many ad campaigns being planned for 2012.

Let's hope marketers trying to exploit the Occupy meme will do a better job of it going forward. In today's social media world, smart marketing isn't about the brand so much as it is about making customers the heroes. It's about conveying shared values by supporting customers in authentic, sustainable ways -- not on-the-spot sloganeering. Occupy? Sure --it, too, is a brand. But part of its appeal is that it's the "anti-brand" -- not business-as-usual.

"We want more than slogans," says Occupy protester Nancy Popp, one of some 200 demonstrators arrested Thursday in Manhattan's financial district. "Don't give us slogans and fine print. Deal with us. Hear us. I mean, do they really think an ad campaign is going to make us open bank accounts at Bank of America? Maybe it's true that there's a sucker born every minute, but with social media, the suckers aren't the customers anymore. The message of Occupy? No more bullshit. Are these brands even listening?"

Seen any further examples of Occupy-in-advertising? Let us know. We'll publish them when we see them.

-- Marcia Stepanek

[Photos by]

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Tuesday, November 15, 2011


Occupy Wall Street organizers -- to further protest their eviction earlier today from Manhattan's Zuccotti Park by New York City riot police -- are stepping up their scheduled global "Day of Action" rally set for Thursday throughout New York City and in other cities where Occupy encampments have been shuttered in recent hours and days.

In a flash rally today attended by hundreds of Occupy protesters along 7th Avenue in midtown Manhattan near the failed Lehman Brothers' former world headquarters building, the movement's organizers asked passersby to "join the Global Movement for Economic and Social Equality and the 99 Percent" for a Day of Action on November 17th. Events that day will include a 7 a.m. "Resist Austerity" rally at Zuccotti Park just before the opening of the New York Stock Exchange "to confront Wall Street with the stories of people on the front lines of economic injustice." Then, at 3 p.m., organizers have scheduled simultaneous rallies at 16 central subway stops in all five NYC boroughs "to listen to a singular story from one of our hardest-hit and most inspirational neighbors." At 5 p.m., Occupy supporters will move to Foley Square near Wall Street to "listen to stories, a gospel choir, a marching band" and "march to our city's bridges to demand that we get back to work rebuilding our country's infrastructure." The flier urges participants to "make it a musical march. ...Bring your songs, your voice, your spirit." [For more information, search N17Event on Facebook.]

Today's flash rally came hours after New York City police, acting on the orders of NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg, arrested 200 Occupy Wall Street protesters in the wee hours as part of a long-planned eviction strategy aimed to clear Zuccotti Park -- the symbolic epicenter of the global Occupy movement. The 1 a.m. eviction was part of a coordinated crackdown by authorities in multiple cities, from Zurich to Portland to London and Calgary after two months of demonstrations in city parks and squares across the country and in cities around the world. In a morning news conference hours after police moved in overnight, NYC's Mayor Bloomberg said the city wanted to clear Zuccotti Park for cleaning but that it had intended to let protesters back in later -- provided they wouldn't live there and re-occupy the space with tents and tarps. But the city decided to keep the park closed when its attorneys were served with a Temporary Restraining Order mid-morning against the evictions. Zuccotti Park remained empty and closed for most of the rest of the day, pending the outcome of a court hearing on the TRO and the legality of the city's actions against the protesters. [ At about 5:30 p.m., the judge upheld the city's ban on tents and tarps, and protesters moved back into Zuccotti Park, without camping gear.]

The raid against Occupy Wall Street came just days after similar actions to break up Occupy Portland and Occupy Oakland-- and a half-day before Occupy Toronto, Occupy Calgary, Occupy Zurich and Occupy London were similarly confronted by authorities. Occupy Los Angeles spokesperson PJ Davenport told The Huffington Post that: "The timing of the evictions of occupiers in Portland, Oakland and New York City are no coincidence. Sources at Occupy LA have received notice from our information networks that the proverbial hammer is coming down and that a nationwide effort is underway to close all occupations. Here at Occupy LA, despite our friendly relationship with City Council and the LAPD, we believe that it is a short matter of time before we are asked to leave."

Occupy press spokeswoman Dana Balicki told WNYC Radio Host Brian Lehrer on his daily radio call-in show today that Occupy organizers would not be deterred by the evictions. "The messaging here is that we are undeterred, our spirits are high and our resolve is unbeatable. ...We are letting the City of New York, Mayor Bloomberg and the world know that we are not going anywhere and that you can't simply throw an idea in a dumpster." Gideon Oliver, one of the lead attorneys representing the Occupy protesters, told Lehrer the crackdowns represent "a new form of represssive conduct. Unlike temporary, stationary rallies of the past, Occupy has created a 24/7 component and taken on messaging and communicative tactics that are unique, so to attack" the movement by clearing the parks they occupy for health and safety reasons "is clearly a pretext."

Meanwhile, Oakland Mayor Jean Quan told the BBC that leaders of 18 cities in which Occupy protesters had set up encampments coordinated their raids across the county. "I was recently on a conference call with 18 cities across the country who had the same situation," Quan said.

On Monday, the Canadian magazine Adbusters, which conceived of the movement -- and apparently aware of the multi-city crackdowns yet to come -- said the protesters should “declare victory” and head indoors to strategize. "OWS isn't a geographical place so much as it is an idea and an attitude," spokewoman Balicki said.

Watch this space for updates.

-- Marcia Stepanek

[Illustration, top: Day of Action poster by Occupy Wall Street.]
[Photos of Tuesday's Occupy Wall Street eviction, top, by Don Emmert of AFP-Getty Images, and below, by The Associated Press - both with permission.]

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