Rolling through Vauxhall one glum (July) morning last week, something caught my eye through the rain-spattered glass of my commuter train: a Go Compare billboard advertisement with black spray paint furiously scrawled across it in large letters after the go
compare “GET SOME SINGING LESSONS”, verbalising what I think we have all thought at one time or another (perhaps in less polite words than I would like to say publicly) about this irritatingly successful brand, who have enjoyed their successes through drilling ghastly Italian ‘mockera’ into the public’s brains’.
For a second I questioned the validity of the scrawl. Perhaps Go Compare were playing a joke on themselves? Trying a new way to win customers through self-deprecation? My thinking was put to rights however, when Campaign reported on the activities of the succinctly-named ‘Brandalists’. I have not been as excited about graffiti since Banksy’s early days – and truthfully graffiti hasn’t really been making a splash of late. Mostly quiet on the paste-up and stencil front. Reportedly, 26 artists, including Banksy collaborator Paul Insect have been waging guerilla warfare on the UK’s billboards, much in the same way that brands themselves act..
Banksy’s art is all about universal truths – mostly Western society’s ills – and I wouldn’t be surprised if he was masterminding this movement. It is no coincidence that this is occurring in the run-up to the London Olympics. It is well-known how hard the ASA are clamping down on anyone who is not an Olympic sponsor. Not to mention the rumours about brands dodging ‘Olympic tax’. The whole event is a microcosm of our current times: the rich and powerful are trampling all over everyone and having a jolly affluent time doing it, and the poor and weak are struggling. Then come the rebels – the rejects – to say ‘f**k you all’. We are a nation divided: between those who are part of the celebrations and are being rewarded subsequently (even if it is just having a ticket to an Olympic event in one’s sticky paw – a Coca-Cola™ – official premier tier LOCOG sponsor – in the other), and those that have been rejected or will suffer because of the proceedings, for example, couriers, who can’t even park on the side of the road to get their deliveries done (for fear of blocking the unmentionable Olympic Lanes), unless they were wealthy enough to sponsor, a la UPS. Not to mention the punters. The economy is on its knees – no-one is moving anywhere, expect backwards, maybe. Our expectations have had to drop drastically. Once upon a time, a certain Labour government encouraged young people to get university degrees, promising them a career path at the end of it. Well, as a despondent reminder of how that fantasy worked out, I watched a news edit today about an architectural graduate who is scraping a living as a potterer.
So yes, we’re cynical and its actually a pleasure seeing the defacement of the big, bloated, overpriced commercial brands whose campaigns are squeaky-clean, jargon-filled, bland and repetitive as hell, getting a smack back in the face from the quite frankly, bored consumer-public. Roll on the Olympics (to get it over with)! I mean, how the hell can I get involved actually, apart from having to deal with the additional 3 million journeys a day in the city? By having a jolly old chuckle and sticking up my two fingers, that’s what.
/Edit/ Ok so I have just been informed that the Go Compare ‘brandalism’ was actually intentional.. well, I would have to say that was very bold and clever. Though, bad timing for Go Compare. See more superior work by the brandalists.