The Situationist international is a movement founded in 1957, and was a critique of the consumerist society (Plant 1952, 1), which they found to be dull and uninspired. The movement stemmed from the Lettrist movement and was heavily influenced by the ideas of Marxism, having the main aim to challenge and change society. The concepts derived by the situationist such as that of Detournement, Alienation, Survival and Psychogeography (Mathews 2005) can be identified in contemporary Guerrilla Advertising. The contemporary examples that will be discussed are the recent release of Niantic's Pokémon GO game which utilises augmented reality, Nike's FuelBox campaign, and lastly AdBusters Joe Chemo campaign.
The Situationist International began in 1957 originating from the Lettrist movement. The Letterists were interested in cultural sabotage, inventing a new activity to replace art, and aesthetics in art itself (Mathews 2005). They were made up of people who were unhappy with the dullness of the consumer society, and would would rally against it by creating poetry, graphic design, and drawings. The Situationists characterised modern capitalist society as a cluster of spectacles where time remained as a frozen moment of history and that it was impossible to experience real life or actively participate in the construction of the lived world (Plant 1952, 1), thus the main aim of the situationist was to transform society. The values of the group mimicked the ideas of Marxism, wanting people to experience life alternative to those living under the constraints of Capitalism and to break out of the everyday routines in order to create “situations” of a superior quality (Mathews 2005). Situationists showed an interest in urban planning and architecture and took to study the effects of the geographical environment on the emotions and behaviour of individuals which they termed “psychogeography” (Mathews 2005). In doing so they came up with a realisation that art should not be seen as a separate from everyday life but instead integrated everyday life into art.
The most prominent member of the Situationist International is Guy Debord. He was a French Marxist theorist, writer, filmmaker, and member of the Lettrist movement, he then went on to become the leading founder and theorist of the Situationist International. With the influences from Marx theories and the letterset movement, he was able to establish the the key concepts that influenced the movement (Mathews 2005).
One of the key concepts is ‘Detournement' (Mathews 2005). It is a technique developed by the Letterist in 1950 and is aimed at turning expressions of the capitalist system against itself for example; turning slogans and logos against what the advertisers had originally intended used as a political prank.
Another key theory of the situationist international is Alienation (Mathews 2005). They suggested that Organisations that do not communicate with their workers to determine the activities undertaken together are alienating their workers (Mathews 2005). Situationists wanted to destroy the division between order-givers and order-takers.
Subjectivity is also identified as a key theory in the Situational International movement. They emphasized the subjectivity of rebellion, making the working class aware of the capitalist society and not be passive objects of the ‘bureaucratic design' (Mathews 2005). The situationists spoke freely of the subjective feelings they had and tried to steer society against the boredom and the dullness that was taking over.
The concept of survival is another theory adopted by the situationist international. They felt it was necessary to emphasize that the survival that can be assured by capitalism is not the same thing as actually living (Mathews 2005). Survival in a capitalist society is working, and consuming what is fed to us through the media, this hinders one's ability to live for their own desires and express original ideas.
Finally, Psychogeography is another concept of the situationist international (Mathews 2005). Debord (1955) describes it as “the study of the precise laws and specific effects of the geographical environment, consciously organized or not, on the emotions and behaviour of individuals”. It is a concept that is intended for people to use geography in a way that emphasises liveliness and letting yourself wonder around urban environments to see where you will go. Debord created his 1955, “Psychogeographic guide of Paris” based on this concept with it depicting a map of Paris that has been cut up, rearranged and drawn on making it quite random and fluid, enforcing how Debord would have wanted people to venture in the city. These concepts and theories have a relevant influence on guerrilla advertising in today's society.
Guerrilla Marketing is essentially an advertising strategy which utilizes unusual and eccentric marketing tactics to generate large exposure at minimum costs (Creative Guerrilla Marketing 2016). The name, created by Jay Conrad Levinson (1984), is inspired by guerrilla warfare. Guerrilla warfare is a form of irregular warfare where armed civilians use tactics such as ambushes, sabotage, raids and elements of surprise (Asprey, 2016). Guerrilla marketing uses the same sort of tactics but in the realm of the marketing industry (Creative Guerrilla Marketing 2016). The main objective being to surprise the viewer through marketing ideas that are high energy and imaginative. Doing so leaves a lasting impression and thus starts a conversation amongst the wide broader public. Creative Guerrilla Marketing (2016) says that Guerrilla marketing is said to make a far more valuable impression with consumers in comparison to more traditional forms of advertising and marketing as it strikes the viewer at a far more ‘personal and memorable level'. As this form of advertising comes at a low cost, it is a great tool for small business to use as it gives the exposure to a larger platform especially with the use of online venues allow messages to be virally spread within blogs and social network (Castronovo and Huang 2012, 121), however larger companies still utilise this tactic to gain traction on new products they wish to advertise, for example and Niantic, Pokémon GO (mobile game, 2016) Nike's FuelBox campaign (2014). Due to Guerrilla marketing's controversial nature, it can also be used as a tactic to change the perception held on a certain topic, whether it be a failed publicity stunt, or negative media brought onto a company. An example of this is Adbusters, ‘Joe Chemo' campaign (c 1996), which turned the face of a popular Joe Camel cigarette ad into an
advertising campaign against smoking.
The themes of Psychogeography are evident in the game ‘Pokemon Go'. Pokemon Go is a game available on smartphones utilising geolocation, maps and augmented reality to provide a rich and unique experience for the players (Lum 2016). Released by Niantic, the game has successfully gained a large following with over 500 million downloads worldwide it quickly became the most downloaded app on the Apple App Store, compared to any other app in its first week (Lum 2016). It has received a positive response for promoting physical activity as it gets people exploring locations to capture virtual Pokémon characters and at the same time helping local businesses grow as the game makes people go outside a lot of the time. When the Pokemon character appears on the screen, the background is still showing a real world background. In the app, the feature named ‘PokeStops' which are located in interesting places such as attractions popular in the area, where users can go to collect items to help improve their score.
By encouraging people to wander around their local neighbourhoods, and city, Pokémon Go is a key example of what the Situationist International theory of psychogeography stood for, as they are on the lookout for Pokemon, players will then take in and pay attention to their surroundings. Even though Pokemon Go players have the aim of looking for and catching Pokemon, they are unaware of when or where the next Pokemon will pop up, thus fulfilling the concept of psychogeography.
This campaign came in hand with the Nike+ FuelBand SE which is an innovative new fitness technology that tracks every movement that users make throughout the day, and measures the whole-body movement, keeping track of daily activity and exercise, giving users detailed summary of their daily fitness. For the FuelBox campaign, Nike set up a vending machine filled with Nike products in a secret spot in New York City where Nike FuelBand users could swap their daily NikeFuel points, earned in the last 24 hours, for free products, in doing so it made it an ideal motivator to stay active throughout (SETAYSHA 2014).
This campaign relates to two of the situationist international theories, the concept of survival and the concept of alienation. The survival theory emphasises the difference between the survival that capitalism provides verses the survival of living. This campaign removes the the capitalist ideals of working for money, but rather encouraging people of maintaining their own health and fitness, giving them a better quality of life achieve their desire for well-being. This campaign encourages users to strive for the own achievements and get rewarded for it at the same time. However, it also goes against the situational theory of Alienation. Situationist had the aim to stop the alienation between the ‘order givers' and the ‘order-takers', achieving an even playing field between the two. In this campaign, users are only allowed to use the NikeFuel accumulated over the past 24 hours to receive their product, rather than allowing them to use all of the NikeFuel points, this allows Nike to maintain order over their consumers, and the fact that the vending machine doesn't remain at the one location for long, some customers might miss out on this reward.
This ‘Joe Chemo' campaign by Adbusters comes as a reaction to RJ Reynolds Joe Camel advertisements. Joe Camel was an extremely successful campaign advertising Tabacco. It was so successful that at age 6, an equal number of children were able to recognize Joe Camel and its association with cigarettes as Mickey Mouse with the Disney Channel (Tobacco.Stanford.Edu 2001). Joe Camels campaign ran for ten years from 1987 to 1997, in this time Camels market share increased dramatically with estimated sales of $476 million per year. From here a question could be asked that if a brand is successful at bringing positive attention to a harmful product, then altering the same advertisement with a new message can ruin a products reputation (Tobacco.Stanford.Edu 2001).
The first image of Joe Chemo ran in the Winter, 1996 issue of Adbusters magazine, a year before the Joe Camel advertsments stopped running. It is a spoof ad created by Adbusters, an anti-consumerism organisation, using irony and the element of surprise to gain the traction it required to turn the popular Joe Camel into a negative character. Since that time, Joe Chemo has appeared in or been mentioned by the New York Times, the Associated Press, Time magazine, the Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, PBS, Business Week, AdWeek, ABC and NBC television news, and many other media outlets (Joechemo.Org 2001). This campaign was successful in sending its message out, especially to the children as they were more likely to pay attention and respond to a message that featured familiar characters. (Joechemo.Org 2001)
As Adbusters was an anti-consumerism organisation, it automatically links to the Situationist Interntional. But more specifcally this campaign can be related to Situationist theory of Detournement. This theories main aim was to turn the the expressions of the capitalist system around, and using it against itself. This is exactly what ‘Joe Chemo' has done to popular character ‘Joe Camel'. It has turned this happy character and defamed its positivity, highlighting the negative side of smoking and the health risks involved. This advertisement will shock and worry smokers, as the Camel, who used to smoke was a relatable character, but now that he has cancer, it will deter them from smoking due to the health hazards involved.
The Situationist International has a noticeable presence on contemporary guerrilla advertising, this can be seen through the theories and concepts it introduced into society like the detournement theory which aims at turning capitalist influences. This is comparable with AdBusters Joe Chemo campaign, which was successful in defaming a popular smoking icon through that tactic. Psychogeography was a heavy influence on the Pokemon go app which utilises augmented reality to make users wander around their city and take in their surroundings. Whether or not Situationist International theories have a direct link to certain campaigns, the concepts are still carried through and present in guerrilla advertising, with main aim to go against the social norm of and use surprise tactics and make the public more aware of the world around them.
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