A mutli-national corporation sponsors an online exhibit about LA Chicano Punk?! gasp! Well, hell… it happens and as a guy who has made most of his adult life’s work and living by selling sponsorships and marketing plans to multi-nationals, I can’t really pretend this upsets my delicate sensibilities now can I?
I knew there was something a little too slick about the email/press release I received with an opening line stating “hope this finds you well”. Turns out it was from a company called The Door..an Idea House.. which is really just fancy talk for an ad agency… that tool of corporate multinationals to help sway poor suckers who don’t know any better that they really want some shit they really don’t need in order to be cool.
Now, as you can maybe tell, I have a love / hate (but mostly love) relationship with ad agencies. They were my best buddies when I had a company selling advertising to support my INDEPENDENT TV projects. They gave me money in exchange for ads in a relationship with the media that we call advertising sales. Without my early success in that field, I would not be able to travel the world, typing on this here video/blog dear viewer/reader…. covering the global punk scene for anyone who gives a shit enough to watch/read. So I owe many of them a debt of gratitude and I can honestly say, many of my best clients are still my friends to this day (a couple of them are punks too btw).
I mean corporations are made up of… people. And I like people. It’s companies without a conscience I don’t like. It’s places where incompetent people, who are best cut out for politics than business, can hide that I don’t like.
I only worked for a large corporation once in my 20+ year career and it lasted only 3 years and it was simultaneously miserable and cool at the same time. It was miserable because I answered to fools. It was miserable because there were so many weak, unethical clowns in positions of authority it was disheartening to the mostly good people who actually had to work for said cast of clowns.
The cool part? The conspiratorial nature of the camaraderie built with so many good people, mostly at the bottom rung of the corporation with whom I developed lifelong friendships (and many of whom have all gone on to do bigger and better things, being immensely talented but suppressed by a silly, publicly traded entity with it’s corporate head up it’s corporate ass). I have A LOT more thoughts on those 3 years of my life, but that is another post…or even a book, at another time.
As a businessman (yes, you can be punk and be a businessman), I must at least tentatively embrace advertising and capitalism. Because, quiet frankly without it, I’d have a whole bunch of other problems I’d be dealing with (like what to eat tomorrow and where to sleep tonight).
But as a human, I’m not so sure (here is where the punk aha moment comes in). There is that pesky little problem of supposedly making people want what they don’t need. Advertising doesn’t exactly encourage the notion of “live simply so others can simply live”. Also capitalism seems to leave such a gap for many in the world where the middle class are notably few or even almost entirely absent, and a few rich people have the power in most of the countries (i.e. many 3rd world & Latin American countries).
But then socialism is sort of f’d up too. I mean check out all our blogs and videos on Cuba punks to see how power corrupts. Then there are those little lack of basic freedom details that get in the way of Fidel’s, Evo’s and Hugo’s shared dream of paradise.
I mean, it’s not the systems that are bad, capitalism or socialism , it’s the people who end up corrupting the systems. As a hardworking guy, I prefer to get paid based on my skills and work ethic than opposed to what some ineffective politician said I could get paid or that I also have to pay for people who are unwilling (note, not unable) to work. Call me crazy, but I feel a bit more free as an individual when I decide what I want to do with my life. That could include working my ass off… or begging for spare change. It’s my choice so long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else, who cares?
Yep, it’s the people that f’ it up every time. Guns don’t kill people, people with guns kill people…right? Well there have been a couple of times watching TV that I wish I had a gun to shoot the TV screen out, Fat Elvis Style, after watching yet another mindless, idiotic commercial trying to get me to buy something I didn’t want to buy or worse yet, stereotyping an entire race or sex to get me to act (Coors Light and 89.5% of most NFL themed beer commercials?! horrendous).
So when I received this email about a Toyota Scion sponsored “online exhibit” of Los Angeles Chicano Punk , I was expecting the worst. But Scion’s participation is so subtle, you hardly even know they are there.
Which perhaps presents a bigger problem. It begs the question if the photos were curated with the corporate final approval by Toyota? What was their involvement? None, a little or a lot.
I can guarantee you some photos were most likely discarded as a result or someone from the agency made the safe choice, picking photos least likely to “offend the client”.
If they weren’t censored, they were at least sub consciously self-censored just by the choices made. In the same position, I would have done the same thing. It’s not right or wrong, it just is and to do otherwise would be career suicide.
My problem with corporate America getting involved in the punk scene isn’t that money corrupts or someone is selling out, it’s that big corporate companies by their very nature, must be careful about Public Relations and how they are perceived. Which often leads to watered down, sanitized, ad friendly content… that is until something breaks the mold and when it becomes a hit (Real World & Survivor – the birth of Reality TV in the U.S. ) they all jump on the bandwagon and a pathetic race to the bottom begins (Jersey Shore, the Kardashians and virtually all reality TV on the air today).
I mean Rush Limbaugh has been broadcasting his particular brand of hate speech for years now, but it takes him calling someone a ‘slut” before the delicate sensibilities of Madison Avenue are finally offended? Yeah right!
In the case of LA Chicano Punk exhibit, I think it’s alright to have a corporate underwriter. If Scion’s involvement is what it takes to get this exhibit out there, then I say “go for it”. We can always choose not to watch it (or write about it) or put our own exhibit up to kick this little slice of an exhibit’s ass without any corporate dollars attached.
So long as we all know the deal, Scion, is out to sell us a car and they think by playing on our emotions about punk music that maybe their message will have a deeper impact. Well, they are wrong. I refuse to buy a Scion today. I already have a car. But maybe next week I’ll take a test drive?
I actually do respect Scion a little bit for showing a little love and respect to a very important part of punk history. I mean everyone knows if you want to sell cars, you should do it with Hip Hop, a genre that has no qualms about “selling out”. If you think I’m wrong, ask Russell Simmons as he strikes a yoga pose and murmurs “Namaste” on his 100% Gold Plated Toilet.
All this to say, here is a pretty cool little exhibit about the LA Chicano punk scene.. and oh, I almost forgot, sponsored by Scion. Enjoy!