“I’ll Take a Grande Subvertisement”

Reading Christine Harold’s article “Pranking Rhetoric: “Culture Jamming” as Media Activism,”made me think of the constant barrage of advertisements that I am subject to on a daily basis. As an avid consumer of Starbucks coffee, I was curious if the Seattle based coffee shop has been subject to any media pranking. To my surprise, I found the “Six Bucks” image featured above, as an example of the ways in which media pranksters subtly play with commercial logo’s and slogans by folding it over on itself and exaggerating its tropes.

Unlike extreme media activist initiatives such as those carried out by The Yes Men (Andrew Boyd & Steve Lambert), ad parodies like “Six Bucks,” consist of subtle changes to the visual ad that aim to ‘subvert’ market rhetoric or to reveal the true logic of advertising, the most notable example being Adbuster’s 2003 “Blackspot” sneaker that redirects the resources of commercial media towards new ends.

While I admit that I am a HUGE Starbucks fan,”Six Bucks” is a successful example of the ways in which media pranksters artfully insert noise into an otherwise uninterrupted consumer channel. Although Guy Debord may have argued against parody as an effective rhetorical strategy, as a consumer, the ‘Six Bucks’ image caught my attention, causing me to react by reflecting upon my spending habits in relation to my preferred coffee shop… although I am fairly confident that  I will continue to buy coffee at Starbucks.

“Revenge is a science, pranking is an art” (p.189).

It is important to consider the ways in which the “Six Bucks” subvertisement is a part of the larger network of culture jamming, and the ways in which the actors in this network are able to actively confront major industries through platforms such as the internet, and social media sites. We can also see the ways in which media pranking and detournment require artistic skill or techne, as well as technologies such as photoshop software and/or materialities such as spray paint or posters in order to successfully rework signs and images for meaningful diversion.





1 Comment

  1. This is a really interesting example and I think it ties into the discussion we had during Alannah’s presentation. I think we essentially came to a consensus as a class that we don’t necessarily change our behaviour as a result of these sort of criticisms of corporate marketers and organizations, and I think they act as ‘reminders’ about consumption. I think you made a really good point that reinforces this and I agree that I am the same way: we see images like this and are reminded about our spending habits, but most likely will continue to invest. In contrast, I would argue that when an issue is more aimed at a moral dilemma, there is more room for the desire to change. When Alayna shared her blog post of make-up companies using animal testing to test their products, she provided the link with corporations that do not use animal testing. The particular culture-jamming advertisements she shared about animal testing and make-up companies resonates stronger with me because as an advocate of animal rights, where the Starbucks parody logo is something that does not have that same moral dilemma. I think that when these culture-jamming ‘pranks’ are more aligned with our own personal moral views, we are more inclined to make changes. Thanks for sharing, I didn’t know you were a huge Starbucks fan! 😉


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