Life Rebellion! Cars! Hamburgers!
Ah, anarchy. I know you were co-opted long ago into Hot Topic Patches and Warped Tour bands. But recently I’ve noticed a local upswing in major corporations trying to market themselves as the paraphernalia of a hip, subversive youth counter-culture movement. For some reason, this is still surprising to me, if only because I can’t tell if the campaigns are run by irony geniuses or woefully 50-something execs informed by Youth Culture consultants.
Example 1: The Toyota Yaris “YarisWorks” campaign that descended on Seattle this summer. In an attempt to get kids to buy the new Yaris car, Toyota has been using marketing tools usually utilized by grassroots organizations — like canvassers on Broadway and a giant tent at Block Party offering free silk screening. They’ve also been handing out a pamphlet detailing different “D.I.Y. projects all made possible by the Toyota Yaris!” D.I.Y., for you old folks, is a culture based around the anarchy-offshoot idea of being a self-sufficient non consumer who creates things with one’s own two hands. Those side-stapled zines you see around? From the D.I.Y. community. Stenciled graffiti designs on sidewalks? D.I.Y. art. Gutterpunk kids who sew their own clothes and publish their own vegan cookbooks? D.I.Y. for sure. Toyota gives directions for how to make a “D.I.Y. knitted cover for your flip cell phone!” Here’s the buzzword-heavy explanation of the campaign on the YarisWorks website.
“Find out what happens when Yaris asks leaders of the indie arts and music communities to create rad, hand-on workshops, interactive nighttime parties and weekend celebrations of all things D.I.Y.!”In addition to the aforementioned free silk screening, these workshops and interactive parties include a “Scarf + Button Making Class,” a zine making event and a “Tofu Festival.”
I called up Hazel Pine, who helps run the D.I.Y. Academy at Seattle’s Zine Archive and Publishing Project, to ask how she felt about Toyota ‘s Block Party D.I.Y. stand. “We felt appropriated and pissed,” she said, “Toyota was at one end with their huge-ass booth and we were at the other end with the cheapest table we’d begged Block Party to let us have… I think in terms of business they’re being smart. People are going to be like, ‘What’s up with Toyota? But, hey! Free silk screening! I’m gonna do that!”
Example 2:Across Seattle, the fast food chain Jack in the Box has been closing down franchise stores and posting signs warning of the branch’s “Radical Makeover!” A week or so later, the restaurants emerge with spray-painted stenciled Jacks in various “rad” poses. Look, it’s Jack at a protest! Viva las hamburguesas!
The megaphone and raised fist are obviously meant to evoke the idea that Jack is leading… uh, someone… in an uppity revolution. And when will we see the first street team hired to stencil Jacks on curbs and Burger Kings? Is all this an attempt to separate themselves from the image I previously associated with the chain — the subliminal Jesus fish formed by the O and X in their logo?