Category Archives: marketing

Calling Bullshit on Illegal Ads

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Here’s the deal: There’s a company called National Public Advertising Outdoor that puts up advertisements on sides of buildings and other public places in New York and other big cities. The ads they put up are illegal. They do not have a permit. They city is not getting paid. Instead, they pay the landlords of the buildings they use. Citizens are forced to look at advertising all over NYC because this company has illegally plastered their ads all over town. For whatever reason, the city looks the other way and rarely cracks down on them.

This spring, Jordan from The Public Ad Campaign blog organized a massive grassroots retaliation against the illegal billboards. See our coverage here and here. In short, an army of artists whitewashed 120 different illegal billboards and replaced them with art. NPA Outdoor was furious and sent out teams to put their ads back up in a matter of hours. A few artists even got arrested after being caught in the act by police.

Since the takeover, NPA Outdoor has added a new notice to all of their billboard sites. As you can see in the photo above, it reads, “Coming soon to this location: a chance to win these posters and other prizes inside.” They are trying to find a loophole in their bullshit illegal business. It’s illegal for a landlord to put an advertisement on the side of his building, but it’s not illegal to put up a sign advertising products that are for sale inside. So by putting up this bullshit notice that claims you can win the posters inside the store, NPA is trying to get around the law. They’re smart to add the phrase “coming soon,” because if you go in ANY of the stores that have this notice, you’ll find that there are no posters. It’s all bullshit. I’ve personally asked people in a half-dozen stores for more information on “winning” the posters and every clerk has looked at me like I was an idiot. They had no idea what I was talking about, because there is no drawing for posters. It’s bullshit.

Recently Posterchild and Jason Eppink set out to call NPA Outdoor on their bullshit. The duo replaced NPA’s notice with one of their own.

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Why won’t the city crack down on New York’s true graffiti problem?

Might as Well Post These

We normally don’t post projects that are corporate promotions, but in the interest of not getting any more emails to the tune of, “Have you guys seen this?” here they are:

The first is a commercial for T-Mobile that aired on UK television. The second is a publicity stunt / viral video that was made to promote a Belgian reality TV show centered around a production of The Sound of Music.

The T-Mobile video came first; it was released in January. Of course there have been many flash mobs and Improv Everywhere-style events staged in London’s Liverpool Street Station, long before T-Mobile. The Belgian video was released in March, hot on the heels of T-Mobile’s success. The videos are pretty similar to each other, but what I found really hilarious was how brazenly the Belgian team ripped off the T-Mobile behind-the-scenes video. Check them out side-by-side:

Both videos are very well made and are no doubt entertaining. Of course it helps that they both had a big corporate budget and permits to use the train stations. Like I said, we weren’t going to post them since they are huge commercial ventures and not the work of the independent pranksters and artists we love to feature, but after getting 100 tips about them emailed to us, why the hell not.

Portuguese Food Court Musical

It looks like “fashion tissue paper” company Renova, based in Portugal, decided to make a Portuguese version of Improv Everywhere’s Food Court Musical to market their colorful napkins. They copied the lyrics (translated), choreography, characters, and music. They didn’t bother to give credit to Improv Everywhere or the writers of the song Scott Brown and Anthony King. Thanks to Manuel for sending this in.

UPDATE: It looks like they made the video “private” so no one can see it. Anyone know how to track down a cached copy? Here is the original link, and here is the account that uploaded it.

UPDATE 2: I found it on another video site. Watch it here.

The original Food Court Musical:

(also available on YouTube)
song by Scott Brown and Anthony King
arranged by Jamie Laboz

Previously: Airport Musical

Elevator Music

Last month Yahoo! asked me to direct a prank video for their new Start Wearing Purple site. We created a seemingly spontaneous sing-a-long in a Manhattan elevator. As the elevator went down from the 6th floor, a new performer got on at each stop and started singing the same song. We decked out the elevator with hidden cameras and got some great reactions from unsuspecting riders. You can see videos of the other marks as well as behind-the-scenes footage on the Yahoo! site.

Airport Musical

This is a viral marketing video promoting some sort of theatre ticket website in London. It seems like they wanted to capitalize on the success of Improv Everywhere’s Food Court Musical video, which went viral about a month before this was filmed. Improv Everywhere was not the first to stage a musical in a public place (see: Prangstgrüp’s “Reach!” for an earlier example,) but there are a couple of things in this video that were directly taken from Food Court Musical, most obviously the appearance of a threatening security guard who then surprises everyone by singing as well.

Food Court Musical:

(also available on YouTube)
song by Scott Brown and Anthony King
arranged by Jamie Laboz

Verizon Wireless Network Prank

Over the past couple of years one of the most common ideas emailed to Improv Everywhere has been, “Get a bunch of people to stand behind someone and pretend they are the Verizon ‘network,’ like in those commercials.” We’ve literally had 300 emails over the years suggesting that idea. We got so tired of hearing it that we even put it up on the list of common suggestions on our FAQ.

The main reason we were never interested in the idea is that it would essentially just be recreating a commercial. The funny idea of “a bunch of people standing behind someone” was already in the commercial itself, and the only added comedy would be that it was being done in real life.

Well, as you can see in the video above, Verizon ended up making the idea happen on their own. Too bad they didn’t splurge for the helicopter. You’ll notice they include “Improv Everywhere” in the tags for the video. I’m not sure why, as we didn’t have anything to do with it. I guess it’s not the first time someone’s put a misleading tag on an online video.

Faceless Aliens at Wimbledon

Several news organizations, including the Daily Mail, are reporting that “faceless” figures are popping up at Wimbledon and several posh parties around London. Blogger Nick Burcher noticed the logos they are wearing are for the car company Lotus, and was able to sleuth out that the whole thing is actually a viral marketing stunt.

He writes:

Given how easy it is to find the facelesspeople.com website through Google I think it is amazing that there has been so much Faceless People coverage and so little realisation that the Faceless people are part of a clever viral marketing rather than a political statement or art!