The discussion below borrows its theoretical framework from Naomi Klein’s seminal text, No Logo.
Last month, the Yes Men and RAN preemptively hijacked Chevron’s greenwashed “We Agree” campaign, which Elisa’s last post detailed. In her post she mentions that part of the project involves a video remix competition for the best jammed Chevron TV ad. In an effort to increase participation, I’d like to explore the reasons why these DIY brand-jamming projects are worthwhile and encourage other remixers to join, as the deadline for the video remixes has been extended to November 30th.
First and foremost, brand-jamming has the potential to harm target corporations financially — the more effective and widespread a brand-jam becomes, the more wasted the corporation’s advertising dollars end up being. There’s also the possibility of broader brand dilution.
Secondly, by undercutting the effectiveness of advertising, these remixes can discourage corporations from using cynical advertisements as a strategy for deflecting criticism and encouraging consumption.
A good brand-jam also offers the opportunity to appropriate the attention generated by corporate advertisements and turn that attention to crucial political messages — in this case the immediate need for cleaning up the deadly environmental catastrophe that Chevron is responsible for in Ecuador.
The final reason applies particularly to group-oriented political remixes, and for me it is the most important: these types of projects offer opportunities for sustained cooperative relationships between remixers, media activists and other activist groups. The Chevron Thinks We’re Stupid contest is a joint undertaking between The Yes Men, Amazon Watch, and the Rainforest Action Network, and the Yes Men plan to expand on these type of projects with The Yes Lab, which aims to partner with other activists and generate continuous challenges to corporate and political power. Even Funny Or Die has joined in.
These collaborative approaches are equally beneficial to remixers — a large reason for the proliferation of hacked Chevron Print ads is that the Yes Men were able to provide ready-made photoshop files that reduced the labor required to make a good Chevron jam. A sustained project of this type could mean the accumulation of all types of labor-saving files, or tutorials, or forums for remixers to share skills and provide mentorship to anyone who needs help with their work. These projects also have the potential to convince remixers to produce political work when they might otherwise have just made trailer mashups of their favorite blockbuster. As a test case for future projects of this type, the Chevron “We Agree” contest points to a great deal of potential for continuous, group-oriented political remix projects that aim to challenge corporate and political power.
So join the fun and take some time this week to hack one of the Chevron TV commercials. We’ve prepared a handful of video files that will hopefully cut a little labor out of the process. They can be downloaded here. And here’s a video remix I produced myself for the project: