April 26, 2010

The Anti-Ad Campaign As Brewery Performance Art

By now, many of you have seen the Dogfish Head "Robot Brewery Tour" video. As the description says:
Imagine a terrifying dystopian world where the international, robotic, brewing conglomerates successfully automated flavor and humans out of brewing process and reduced beer to a generic commodity....

This super cool short film pokes fun at the big business breweries and their quest to automate the personality of beer and reduce it to a generic commodity.

Sam Calagione (of Dogfish Head Craft Brewery http://www.dogfish.com/) plays a robot who explains the process of personality automation to a reporter, played by the amazingly talented indie actor/musician Will Oldham (heres a cool story on him: http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/20... ).

And this strange video reminded me to post on one of my favorite topics: Where do we draw the line on the definition of art?

This blog obviously takes the position that marketing and design can be art, but videos like this push the envelope a little further.

For example, some of you may have seen the anti-ad campaign of Rotgutzen Beer-Flavored Product. Without spoiling anything, I can tell you that the campaign is the brainchild of a craft brewery, aimed (like Dogfish's video) at the macrobrewery industry. It, too, included viral videos, in this case a debate with Ska Brewing Co.'s Dave Thibodeau. But is it marketing, art, or both?

Rogutzen and the Robot Brewery share things beyond thematic "damn the man" sensibilities. One important distinction is that both are not exactly advertising something as much as they are warning against something. Unlike, say, label art, these pieces are not designed to sell anything. They are created, instead, to keep you from buying something, or at least to humorously remind you of what you or your friends might be buying. In both cases, veiled references to alternatives give some level of name recognition, but the point here is creativity and meaning, rather than raising of revenues.

Anyway, these anti-ad campaigns, which have ideological roots in efforts like Kalle Lasn's work at Adbusters and the Reverend Billy's Church of Life After Shopping, are really a type of performance art.

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